Big Brothers, Big Sisters pivots to virtual model to keep serving youth amid COVID-19 pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Now more than ever, community groups could really use your help. That includes Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago, where mentors are showing how they stay connected with the young people they serve amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Chicago Police Officer William Martinez and 17-year-old Randy Crockett get together virtually nowadays, talking online. They met two years ago when they were matched for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago.

"When we would just sit there, it was easy to see each other and conversations start up," Martinez said.

"I learned from Martinez that all cops are not bad guys," Crockett said.

Just from hanging out with Martinez, Crockett's grades improved and he learned how to better manage his anger. But now, COVID-19 has forced the youth mentoring program to pivot to a virtual model.

"It's kind of hard not being able to go out and socialize and not being with your mentor and doing things that you used to do on a day-to-day basis," Crockett said.

"All of that physical connectedness had to come to a halt," said Jeremy Foster, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago.

With everyone sheltering at home, Foster said the organization fills what is an even greater need for social and emotional well-being. It also gave 30 Chromebooks to littles who didn't have technology to stay connected with their bigs.

"We're distancing physically," Foster explained. "We're not social distancing because of the power of the relationship."

Foster said Big Brothers Big Sisters is still going strong for now and is able to match young people with mentors. But like many other non-profits, he said fundraising has decreased dramatically because of COVID-19.

For more information on local resources available during the coronavirus pandemic, visit ABC 7 Connecting Communities for important information on behalf of our community partners.
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