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October of 2018


November 3, 2018

    Thank you to our presenting sponsors of The Big Celebration 2018




The nation’s leading youth mentoring organization is growing to reach local children who need a Big Brother or Big Sister.

Who We Are

Local History

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater has a rich history that has served as the foundation for the program since 1944. Services have constantly evolved and expanded, but the mission of providing positive role models for children has remained constant. Volunteers offer friendship and guidance to youth through the traditional program and innovative new services.

The local Big Brothers concept developed in the 1930's through the efforts of Frank J. Manley, Sr, a well-known leader and originator of the Community Education concept. He recruited friends and business associates to work on a one-to-one basis with boys involved in the juvenile court system. In the 1940's, Father Sheridan of Flint arranged for the renowned Father Flanigan of Boy's Town to visit the area. His enthusiasm inspired local groups including the Mott Foundation, YMCA, Catholic Social Services, and the Flint Council of Social Agencies to formally establish the Big Brothers program in August 1944. Originally implemented within the Flint Youth Bureau, under the auspices of the Flint Board of Education, the program was funded primarily by the Mott Foundation. Joe Ryder was the first executive director and served the agency for 23 years. The program was officially named Big Brothers of Greater Flint in 1961.

The Big Sisters program was initiated in 1955, through the efforts of Frank Manley, William Minardo, and Allen Matherne. The Council of Social Agencies, Flint Women's Council, Mott Foundation, and Industrial Business Girls (IBG) worked together to develop a pilot program. The first Big Sisters training group was comprised of 14 IBG members.  A year later, there were 81 women matched with Little Sisters. The Mott Foundation initially funded the program that later became a United Way agency. In 1956, Florence Riddell was named executive director of Big Sisters of Flint and Genesee County. Priscilla Wittlinger followed as director for more than ten years.

On January 1, 1985, the Big Brothers and Big Sisters merged to form one organization. Gary Haggart, who was previously the Executive Director of Big Brothers of Greater Flint became the director of the new agency, Big  Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Flint, which has thrived and steadily increased services to children.

National and International History

For over a century, Big Brothers and Big Sisters have helped children reach their potential through professinally supported one-to-one relationships with proven results.

In 1904, a young New York City court clerk named Ernest Coulter was seeing more and more boys come through his courtroom. He recognized that caring adults could help many of these kids stay out of trouble, and he set out to find volunteers. That marked the beginning of the Big Brothers movement. By 1916, Big Brothers had spread to 96 cities across the country.

At around the same time, the members of a group called Ladies of Charity were befriending girls who had come through the New York Children’s Court. That group would later become Catholic Big Sisters.

Both groups continued to work independently until 1977, when Big Brothers of America and Big Sisters International joined forces and became Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

More than a century later, Big Brothers Big Sisters remains true to our founders’ vision of bringing caring mentors into the lives of children. Big Brothers Big Sisters currently operates in all 50 states … and in 35 countries around the world!

More Than 100 Years of Big Brothers Big Sisters Across America and Around the World





Ernest Coulter, court clerk, helps organize the first New York Children's Court; Ladies of Charity, later Catholic Big Sisters of New York, starts to befriend girls who come before the New York Children's Court


Businessman Irvin F. Westheimer befriends a young boy in Cincinnati, OH; seeds are formed for the start of Big Brothers in Cincinnati


Ernest Coulter founds the organized Big Brothers movement by obtaining 39 volunteers, who each agree to befriend one boy


The New York Times reports Big Brothers activity in 26 cities


Ernest Coulter embarks on nationwide lecture tour on behalf of Big Brothers; planning begins for a national Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization


Big Brothers work spreads to 96 cities


The first national conference of Big Brothers and Big Sisters organizations is held in Grand Rapids, MI., leading to the later organization of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation


Big Sisters work geared to African-Americans is underway in Louisville, KY and Brooklyn, NY;

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., becomes treasurer of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation;

First motion picture based on a Big and Little Brother relationship is released by Paramount Pictures


Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation holds its first conference for agency executives;

President Calvin Coolidge becomes patron of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation


Six hundred delegates attend a Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation meeting in New York City on March 8


President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt become patrons of Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation


National Committee on Big Brothers and Big Sisters service is created to continue to pursue the formation of a national group


Big Brothers Association headquarters opens in Philadelphia


Norman Rockwell produces the sketch that becomes a symbol for the Big Brothers Association


Big Brothers of the Year Program begins, Associate Justice Tom Clark of the U.S. Supreme Court and J. Edgar Hoover are named


Ernest Coulter dies


Big Brothers Association is chartered by Congress


Big Brothers Association grows to 150 affiliated agencies


Big Sisters International is incorporated


Big Brothers Association reports 208 affiliates


Big Sisters International and Big Brothers Association merge, forming Big Brothers Big Sisters of America with 357 agencies


Big Brothers Big Sisters of America occupies its new headquarters at 230 North 13th Street in Philadelphia


Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is honored with a commemorative stamp by the Postmaster General


Big Brothers Big Sisters begins long range governance planning process: creating standards and required procedures


Public/Private Ventures begins study to gauge impact on youth of having a Big Brother or Sister


Big Brothers Big Sisters kicks off Project 21st Century to develop mission and vision statements, goals and strategies;

"How-To" mentoring training developed


Public/Private Ventures Study research shows measurable, positive results on youth who have a Big Brother or Sister, seminal research in the field of youth mentoring


President William J. Clinton holds Volunteer Summit in Philadelphia; Big Brothers Big Sisters plays key role


Big Brothers Big Sisters International is founded


Big Brothers Big Sisters in Schools becomes a core program. Partnerships with schools and volunteer-rich organizations such as churches, colleges, employers, and fraternities are emphasized. The Amachi Big Brothers Big Sisters program which matches children of prisoners with church congregants is piloted.


Brand New Thinking marketing program focuses on the shared experiences to broaden volunteer appeal.  The tagline "Little Moments, Big Magic" is developed


The Service Delivery System, consistent approach for providing services to children at all agencies is created to increase Big Brothers Big Sisters’ ability to offer quality services to greater numbers of youth


President George W. Bush announces three-year $450 million mentoring initiative in his State of the Union Address


Big Brothers Big Sisters celebrates 100 years of serving America’s youth


First Lady Laura Bush stars in a public service announcement to recruit volunteers across the nation


Public/Private Ventures conducts a study on Big Brothers Big Sisters School-Based Mentoring program, reinforcing the value of strong, long-lasting relationships and leading to program enhancements.

In a Super Bowl first, CBS, the NFL and Big Brothers Big Sisters joined forces to create a public service announcement that features the two coaches whose teams are competing in the game. Roughly 90 million viewers tuned in to watch the game and see Indianapolis Colts' Coach Tony Dungy and Coach Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears underscore the importance of mentoring by referencing their real-life mentoring relationship.


President Obama holds a White House National Mentoring Month Ceremony; Big Brothers Big Sisters attends and plays a key role.

Joe and Aldo
Read More
For Joe and Aldo, a lifelong friendship
What a proud moment for both of them when Aldo was accepted at Denison University.
Joe & Aldo's story »

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