For those with a passion about supporting children to grow and healthy, well-adjusted adults, halting interactions between with youngsters they’ve mentored has been difficult.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the national Big Brothers Big Sisters organization stopped the interaction of mentors – or ‘Bigs’ – and their mentees – or ‘Littles’ – for an unknown amount of time. Michelle Redman, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Minnesota executive director, said that matches are itching to be together again, but that until they hear more from the national organization everyone will have to simply sit tight.

In the meantime, Redman said that the Bigs want to do whatever they can to support their Littles during an unprecedented point in history. With everything today’s youth are facing, Redman said that the coronavirus pandemic is presenting a whole new set of challenges, making mentoring more important than ever.

“We have been working on this project called ‘Growing Greatness’ and have been looking for ways to help the kids in our program with the distance learning,” Redman said. “We reached out to the school district and they said that they don’t actually need tutors or academic help right now, but that the biggest help they need is good mental health support. “

Redman said that having an extra support system can be crucial for youth during a time of crisis, and that mentors can help youth with positive mental health by checking in to see how they are coping with stress associated with the pandemic. The Growing Greatness project evolved into showing the youth involved in BBBS that they are important and loved, even during social distancing and isolation.

On Thursday and Friday, BBBS staff members, Bigs, and board members delivered 675 potted flowers to every child signed up for the program – including those on the waiting list to be matched with a mentor. The flowers were donated by Donahue’s Greenhouse in Faribault, and Turtle Creek Nursery and Landscaping, and Souba Greenhouse and Nursery, both in Owatonna.

“It is important for our youth to know that they have people outside of their family that are there for them, and we want to make sure that they feel supported during this difficult time,” Redman said, adding that words of affirmation were also attached to the plant. “If our flower and words can brighten their day, then I call that a success.”

A poem was also included among the words of affirmation which reads “Just a little something to brighten up your day. A promise we’ll get through this and all will be okay. So even if for now, we have to be apart. Know that we are here for you and you are in our hearts.”

The flowers were delivered to Littles, as well as their siblings, in Steele, Rice, Dodge and Waseca counties.

Reach Reporter Annie Granlund at 507-444-2378 or follow her on Twitter @OPPAnnie. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota.

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