The Big Brother movement started in 1904 in New York City. Mr. Ernest Coulter, a clerk in the New York City Children’s Court, addressed a group of business leaders regarding delinquent boys saying, “These boys’ only guilt is that they have been deprived of a basic childhood right—the right to a father’s love, understanding and example. It is a right which they and others like them may never receive unless men like you give it to them.” So impressed were the forty club members by Coulter’s words, they volunteered their services and the first Big Brothers Agency came into being.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine (BBBS Mid-Maine) first provided services to children in the Boothbay region in 1978. It operated as an affiliate of the Boothbay Region YMCA as Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Boothbay Region. It received its charter as a Big Brothers Big Sisters of America agency in 1979. In 1988 it changed its name to Lincoln County Big Brothers Big Sisters, which accompanied a move to its present location on Main Street in Damariscotta. This proved to be a much more suitable location from which to serve a larger area.
A satellite office was established in 1983 at the St. Phillips Church in Wiscasset and a second in 1990 at the Knox County Child Abuse and Neglect Council office in Rockland. Both offices proved to be, for various reasons, organizationally unwieldy and financially untenable, and both have been successfully folded into the operation of the Damariscotta office. Both geographic regions supplied the Agency with Board members, financial support, volunteers, and youth to match. In March of 2000, an office was established in Belfast, to accommodate the addition of Waldo County to the service area. The office employed a program coordinator/case manager and VISTA member to maintain the programming in that county.
In the Spring of 2003, the Belfast office was closed and the responsibility for providing mentoring program options to the Midcoast region was re-centralized in the Damariscotta office. In March 2005 after a transitional period of a few years, one of the original founders of BBBS Mid-Maine returned to help recruit new leadership. Since September of 2005, the new leadership has led to a renewed mission focus and strong, sustainable growth. The agency expanded its staff by securing a grant for two VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) member positions in 2006 and hired a Director of Development in 2007. The result has been an increase in annual revenue, and most importantly, in youth served from less than 100 to over 350 throughout Knox, Lincoln and Waldo Counties.
The strategic growth plan of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine, called Vision 400, outlined an expansion of both the Community-Based and School-Based Mentoring Programs through 2010. The team implementing Vision 400, a plan to serve 400 youth through both programs on an annual basis, brought the agency back to previous highs for annual youth served achieved during the early 2000’s.
In the summer of 2010 the organization began exploring the addition of Penobscot County to its service area when BBBS of Eastern Maine stopped providing mentoring to the area. In January, 2011, BBBS of America approved the expansion plan, making the BBBS of Mid-Maine service area Knox, Lincoln, Waldo and Penobscot Counties. To support this growth, another full-time program staff member and a temporary special events coordinator were hired, in addition to adding an office at the Bangor Y. This has grown to two full-time program staff supporting over 150 youth annually in the area.
In the summer of 2012 a similar situation occurred in Kennebec Valley. BBBS of Kennebec Valley, serving Kennebec and Somerset Counties, made the difficult decision to close and support our expansion into the area. As of the summer of 2014, an additional 3 staff were added, working primarily out of the Boys and Girls Club and YMCA at the Alfond Youth Center in Waterville.
The agency continues to grow because the program works and there are more kids who can benefit. For the past two years, the agency has changed the lives of more than 500 youth annually.