Big Brothers Big Sisters honors past president

Friday, January 19, 2007

Fort Scott resident Pennie Province will be honored Monday for her three-year association with Bourbon County Big Brothers Big Sisters, an organization that matches adults and 11th and 12th grade students with at-risk children and youth in the community.

Province, who currently serves as the USD 234 special education coordinator, is a past board member and president of the local program, which provides adult mentors for at-risk children and youth. She was one of the program's original board members when it was conceived in early 2004 and also served as the organization's president from May 2004 to November 2006.

The event is scheduled to take place at 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 22, at the First Christian Church, 101 S. Judson St.

The BBBS program first began in February 2004, when Sixth Judicial District Magistrate Judge Rebecca Stephan hosted an informational meeting at the Bourbon County Courthouse. In March of that year, Becky Price, a field manager for the group in eastern Kansas, hosted a similar meeting at Fort Scott Community College. The program's steering committee was first organized in April 2004.

Province, along with the Rev. Reed Hartford and then-Fort Scott Police Lt. William Kesling, became the first three official BBBS board members in Bourbon County in May 2004. The next month, the organization's first board retreat was conducted at Province's home, where Price conducted a training session. When the first officers were elected for the organization that year, Province was elected president.

In September 2004, the organization opened its first bank account, starting with just a $150 balance. The program began as a result of the efforts of a small group of local people who contacted Price and enlisted her help in organizing their effort to start an area mentoring program. The program's board of directors and steering committee later created a strategic plan with short-term and long-term goals. The program had an initial goal of matching volunteers with 14 children.

The program has grown somewhat since then. It currently has an annual operating budget and local staff to help keep the program moving along. This year, the organization has matched 35 eligible children and youth -- of whom a vast majority are high school students -- with volunteer adults. Nine of these are community matches, meaning the adult will take the child to various events and activities, such as sporting events, Hartford said.

The remaining children participate in site-based mentoring, in which the volunteers meet with the children once a week in schools, libraries and community centers to talk and enjoy activities.

Hartford said he participates in the organization by serving as a child's sponsor, taking the child to ball games and out to lunch. This is community-based mentoring, in which volunteers meet with the children for about an hour each week in the community to interact and attend fun activities.

BBBS matches children 6 through 18 years of age with mentors in professionally supported one-to-one relationships. A BBBS agency statement said it is the oldest, largest and most effective youth mentoring program in the U.S.

Since it began, the program has shown positive results. Children in youth mentoring programs are typically more confident in their schoolwork performance, are able to get along better with their families, are 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs, are 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol, and are 52 percent less likely to skip school, the agency said.

In November 2006, Hartford was elected as board president after Province resigned those duties and became treasurer of the organization.

The Fort Scott program is overseen by a regional director, who also monitors program activities in Crawford, Neosho, and Allen counties, as well. Each of those counties has its own case manager. The organization was established to provide at-risk children with mentors who can help them avoid illegal drugs, involvement in crime and unhealthy peer relationships. The national agency is based in Philadelphia, Penn.

For more information about the program or to become a mentor, visit or on the Internet, or call Hartford at (620) 223-9570, or 223-3944.