Our agency was started in 1972 as a simple conversation between Judge Tom Barland and Attorney Jerry Aubry. They saw a great need for something like the ‘Big Brothers’ program to help boys stay on the right track. Aubrey was put in contact with two social workers, Mike Weiser and Bob Swanson, and the three of them met to try and establish a local organization. They contacted Bob Novotney at Lutheran Social Services and Reverend Zane Torgerud, and the five men started an organization called Kinsmen.
The Eau Claire branch worked closely with a Kinsmen agency out of the Twin Cities to start the organization. The first two matches were made around late 1972/early 1973 with Jerry Aubry and John Pakan. Soon after the agency changed it’s name to Kinship of Eau Claire County in order to serve both boys and girls in Eau Claire. After operating for about a year, the organization hired it’s first staff person, Melva Hisrich, as the Volunteer Coordinator. She developed the paperwork and assisted in implementing the procedures which helped professionalize the agency. From there the organization began to grow, serving more children each year.
In 1992, after demonstrating 100% compliance with their 133 Standards and Required Procedures for quality across corporate and program agency management, Kinship of Eau Claire County started a 3 year process to be awarded full affiliate status with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America . The name was then changed to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eau Claire County, and the agency was chartered to serve a nine county area across northwest central Wisconsin.
Since 1995, the agency has expanded three times. In 1997 the agency expanded services to include Chippewa and Dunn County, and the name was changed to Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Chippewa Valley. Then in 2000 the agency expanded again to include St. Croix and Pierce counties in order to serve the rapidly growing population of the St. Croix Valley. The name became Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Wisconsin to reflect the new service area.
This was our humble beginning. From a volunteer staff serving a handful of youth in Eau Claire county, we have grown into around 20 staff members serving children in 5 counties — Chippewa, Dunn, Eau Claire, Pierce, and St. Croix counties. We currently serve hundreds of children each year in one-to-one mentoring relationships and are a leader in developing and sustaining quality mentoring relationships that change children’s lives for the better, forever.
For over a century, Big Brothers and Big Sisters has helped children reach their potential through professionally 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 12 countries around the world!