Local Big Brothers Big Sisters absorbs South Central unit

JENNIFER NOBLIT, ThisWeek Community News

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio has expanded its reach.

As of Jan. 1, Brothers Big Sisters of South Central Ohio aligned with the central Ohio organization, a move that leaders say will improve services.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio is one of the biggest chapters in the country. President and CEO Ed Cohn said the expansion came about during a statewide meeting.

"This has been a year of discussions," he said.

"We want to make sure it's the right thing," Cohn said.

"We're not like private industry where everyone in the organization is looking to merge because of the desire to benefit the shareholder.

"This is all about the kids."

The central Ohio group serves about 3,000 children each year through it's one-on-one mentoring program.

The reach of the South Central group is much smaller.

Cohn said the agency served about 200 children in 2012.

"We've done this before, some in the form of organizations where we took on their territories," he said.

"We always learn something. Each organization seems to have some unique niches and specialties.

"South Central works closely with their mental health and ADAMH board ... . There's already been intellectual property exchanged,"Cohn said.

The South Central office, staff and board will remain. Some services will be shared.

"In our organization, we have Mary (Palkowski) doing full-time marketing, PR materials and advertising," Cohn said.

"With smaller agencies, it's hard to have as many positions and resources," he added. "We'll be able to help with materials and PR marketing. We can do some event support ... . We try to look for ways to eliminate duplications of administration so more time can be spent on programs for kids and families."

Whereas the South Central staff members will have more time to focus on children in their programs, the children will also get a shot at central Ohio's Camp Oty'Okwa in the Hocking Hills.

Last year, more than 5,000 children attended the camp that combines education and camp experiences to help the self-esteem, independence and leadership skills of attendees.

"Having a camp is very unique," Cohn said. "We're one of only two in the country."

With more children set to use services from the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio, Cohn said new volunteers are always needed.

For more information about the organization or to get involved, look online at bbbscolumbus.org or call 614-839-2447.