Since 1973, Big Brothers has had a presence in our community. In 1981, under the leadership of Ed Ledford, the Charleston Orphan House merged with Horizon House and Big Brothers to become the Carolina Youth Development Center (CYDC). Ledford recognized that children separated from families needed more than a place to shelter. “When we added the Big Brothers program to the CYDC umbrella of services, we were thrilled because we knew Big Brothers Big Sisters mentors would make a deep, meaningful impact on our youth,” explained Ledford.
Over the last decade, the CYDC-led BBBS community-based mentoring program served more than 1,000 youth, many within foster care. During this time, youth served consistently demonstrated improvements in avoidance of risky behaviors, attitudes toward school, and social acceptance, parental trust and positive decision making.
Committed to realizing its goal to become our region’s most trusted and respected foster care expert, CYDC made a strategic decision in November 2018 to support the creation of a new, independent BBBS organization. “It just made sense,” stated current CYDC chief executive officer, Beverly Hardin. “Supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters’ independence will provide CYDC an enhanced opportunity to focus on its core mission and goals. It also makes it possible for more children to gain caring mentors.” “It is exciting to see the program we started so many years ago multiplying again. It is a transformative program and asset to our community,” explained Ledford.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lowcountry’s (BBBSL) launch is scheduled for April 2019. BBBS staff have already assured current families and mentors that “matches” will stay open and that both the program staff and the model will stay the same. “We are excited to offer this gift to the community. Moving forward, we intend to foster a strong collaborative relationship with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lowcountry and its leadership. Together, we will work to ensure many youth in foster care have mentors,” stated Hardin.
BBBSL’s new president and chief executive officer, Merridith Crowe, moved to the area in 2011. She served with Trident United Way for seven years following service with two BBBS organizations in Salt Lake City, UT and Tallahassee, FL. Its future program director, Christina Hoffecker, has been serving in the same role with CYDC for five years and is excited to ensure both continuity and growth.
“With poverty as one indicator, there are roughly 30,000 youth facing adversity in the tri-county region,” explained Crowe. “Working with the community, we look forward to growing what is an already high-quality program into a more culturally-relevant and data-driven endeavor. Each day, our obligation will be to help an increasing number of families protect and nurture the potential within the children they love.” Backed by generous philanthropists, a diverse and growing board of directors, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, BBBSL has a bold goal to support 1,000 mentoring relationships within Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester Counties annually by 2026.
“We are so grateful to CYDC for nurturing the program for many years,” stated Big Brothers Big Sisters of America chief executive officer, Pam Iorio. “We see enormous potential ahead, look forward to watching the number of children served grow, and will do all we can to support Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lowcountry efforts.”