There are 201 local children who have an adult mentor due to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Oregon. And now the organization is setting its sights on fully expanding into the La Pine area.

A $14,000 grant from the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is partially funding the local branch of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ effort to find 12 adult mentors in La Pine and Sunriver to serve La Pine’s youth.

According to Bridget Albert, the organization’s community outreach coordinator, kids from La Pine could have had a Big Brother or Big Sister mentor previously, but the organization has struggled to find volunteers in south Deschutes County. The grant will help pay for background checks, recruitment and support for adult mentors in the region. Previously, mentors would have to drive from Bend, which could become an issue with winter snow, Albert said.

“It’s been hard for us to focus our attention in La Pine, and now we’re able to do that,” she said.

In the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, young students from single-parent/guardian homes or who struggle with homework, self-esteem or other problems in their lives are matched with an adult mentor who spends time with them. Albert said having the program operate more fully in the more isolated community of La Pine was crucial.

“The kids in La Pine often don’t have as much to do. They can get themselves into trouble because they’re removed, but they’re great kids and they have amazing potential,” she said. “Our mentors inspire and ignite the potential that’s in those kids and help steer them through adolescence.”

According to Albert, Big Brothers Big Sisters has already matched four kids in La Pine with local mentors, and it hopes to create eight more pairs before the end of the year.

Last month, an offshoot of the program started in which eight La Pine High School students mentored eight La Pine Middle School students after class, Albert said.

There will be an informational meeting at 6 p.m. May 30 in the La Pine Community Center for anyone interested in becoming a mentor or signing up their children for the program.

“I’ve seen what the power of mentoring can do,” Albert said. “There’s a lot of kids in La Pine and all over Central Oregon who do not have a positive adult role model to guide them.”

La Pine Mayor Daniel Richer said he was excited for the organization to strengthen its reach in his city.

“We have a lot of troubled, disadvantaged youth,” he said. “If we can help them stabilize their life … then we’ve done a good thing for our community.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7854, jhogan@bendbulletin.com

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