Updated July 30 at 6:30pm

Lending a hand to military children

"Over 5,000 children in R.I. have parents in the armed forces."

The Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ocean State is expanding mentoring services to include children who have a parent serving in the military. Made possible largely through a grant issued to its national headquarters by the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Protection, the Cranston-based nonprofit is depending on corporate and community involvement to keep the program operational in the long-term.

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FOCUS

Lending a hand to military children

"Over 5,000 children in R.I. have parents in the armed forces."

Posted:

The Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ocean State is expanding mentoring services to include children who have a parent serving in the military. Made possible largely through a grant issued to its national headquarters by the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Protection, the Cranston-based nonprofit is depending on corporate and community involvement to keep the program operational in the long-term.

The service is needed. Rhode Island has the nation’s second-highest, per-capita National Guard deployment rate, according to statistics generated by the guard itself. “There are over 5,000 children here in Rhode Island that have a parent in the armed forces,” said Jennifer Krus, BBBSOS school-based coordinator. “We have a great need here. She said their immediate goal is to establish 35 matches for military children and their mentors.

The Ocean State chapter received $122,500 from its national headquarters in January.

“That money will be spent primarily on staffing,” said Deborah Saunders, executive director of the local chapter. “You need staff to recruit both the volunteers and the children. You also have to do match support to make sure that the kids are safe and to ensure the quality of the match.”

The grant will help start the program but the group will still need supplemental help to make it sustainable. Fortunately, local businesses have been generous with their assistance in existing programs.

Julie M. Maguire, senior risk manager vice president at Citizens Bank in Providence, has been volunteering at Big Brothers Big Sisters since 2008. She is also a BBBSOS board member as well as a committee co-chairperson for their annual fundraiser.

“Citizens is an organization that encourages its employees to be part of the communities in which we live and work,” she said.

Amgen in West Greenwich is another active supporter.

“We’ve been supporting [Big Brothers] through our charitable arm, the Amgen Foundation,” said Larry Bernard, senior communications manager. “They applied for grants in 2007 and 2009. In 2007 we gave them $25,000 and in 2009 we gave them $15,000. In addition, last year and this year we helped their fundraising efforts by supporting their annual gala.”

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