Making a BIG Difference with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan

“I think it was a calling. It really was.”

Becky and Jim Kalajian are both part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan.

“It’s really a neat opportunity to sorta bring all kinds of new experiences to their lives.”

They are both mentors– and started back in 2020. Screen Shot 2022 03 14 At 105458 Pm 

“I always walk away from those experiences feeling so fulfilled on my end,” says Becky.
As spouses– they are both part of the program– creating quite the unique relationship with their Littles– who happen to be siblings.

She says, “Together we have done everything from yoga to paddle boarding, to tubing, to Petoskey stone hunting, we like to walk dogs, to bake, cook, play games.”

Jim tells me, “My little is a classic little 11 year old boy. Where he likes sports and video games, and comes from an environment where he doesn’t have a big brother, or a real role model in the house to teach him to chop wood, or make a fire, or take him fishing.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters is a one-on-one mentoring program that allows children to form a bond with an adult and gain opportunities they might have not been able to have otherwise.

“I think often people, that is what keeps them from applying to be a BIG.”

Krista Goldman serves as the organization’s Director of Mentoring.
One of the biggest misconceptions of becoming a BIG — the true time commitment.

Goldman shares, “They assume the time commitment is too intense. But the way we look at it is, you’re doing the things that you enjoy doing out and about in the community and you’re bringing a child along with you.” Screen Shot 2022 03 14 At 105512 Pm

And for those that may be intimidated by the commitment,
The organization helps you find activities to do with your little

“Twice a month, we send activities that are happening in the community, sometimes we sponsor events for them, or just give them ideas. Based on their own individual interests.”

Another– getting along with your Little.
That’s why they put so much effort in to matching BIGs — and Littles.

“We do have a very thorough enrollment process to ensure that the kids are safe. So we do a layered background check, contact references. We do an interview to get to know them thoroughly and we do that with the parents and kids in our program,” says Goldman.

They’ve also launched a new way to be a BIG — they called it Big Duos.

 Goldman also adds, “Provides an opportunity for them to lean on each other.”

It takes two people– family members– friends– or even a couple– and makes them one BIG.

Img 8985“It also just provides flexibility to work together and ease their schedule.”

For couple Jim and Becky– it has been an eye-opening experience.

With a big smile, Becky says, “If my little wants to do it, I’m going to move mountains to try and make that happen with her mom’s consent, with her mom’s blessing for sure…and not take over, take away from that relationship, but just add.”

And already– they’ve seen the lives of their Littles change in more ways than one…

Jim says, “It may spark something that somewhere down the line that somewhere he’ll remember and that really makes me feel good, and I know those impressions don’t go away.”

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