Central Missouri Big Brothers Big Sisters wins public service award

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 9:05 p.m. CST, Tuesday, November 24, 2009

COLUMBIA — Celebrations aren’t always a time for relaxation.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Missouri celebrated their 40th anniversary with a new campaign — one that helped them win the first place Philly Award for a local public service campaign at the annual Philanthropy Midwest Conference in Kansas City on Nov. 19.

“What better way to celebrate than to get more volunteers,” Executive Director Georgalu Swoboda said.

The campaign began when an anonymous donor offered $100 for every man recruited, up to 100 volunteers. According to Swoboda, there generally are more boys than girls who need mentors.

From this donation, the executive team began the 100 Men in 100 Days campaign, the largest they have ever attempted in a focused format. Team members held an event at Deja Vu Comedy Club, made a presentation to the Columbia Chamber of Commerce and began an individual task force recruited in different businesses.

A large group of volunteers were recruited during the Chamber of Commerce program. Master of ceremonies Bob Gerding had an unscripted moment asking everyone to make a change.

“He said, ‘Our boys need us,’ and asked everyone who wanted to mentor to stand,” Swoboda said. “It was like an old Baptist revival. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place.”

The campaign, led by Columbia Police Chief Tom Dresner and then-Columbia Public Schools interim Superintendent Jim Ritter, lasted from October 2008 to January 2009. It ended with more than 170 male and 156 female new volunteers.

“It makes me feel good to know Columbia citizens step up when the need is great,” Swoboda said.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Missouri won first place against more than 20 nonprofit agencies from the Kansas City metro area in the 17th annual Philly Awards, presented by Nonprofit Connect.

Now the organization is planning its next campaign targeting media and advertisements to run January through March. While many needs were met during 100 Men 100 Days, Swoboda said the need has increased again.

She encourages any interested volunteers to contact their office.

“It only takes an hour a week to make a tremendous difference in someone’s life,” Swoboda said.

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