MAKING IT WORK : Commitment, Screening Required of Volunteers

It takes a special commitment to become a volunteer for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Orange County. Without it, children who already struggle more than most will be faced with another failure in their lives, says Executive Director Jo Alexander.

Volunteers must commit to be a Big Brother or Sister for at least a year, but most stay in the program two years or more, spending three to five hours a week with their adopted siblings, Alexander says.

Volunteers, who go through an extensive screening process, must be age 20 or older and must have been at their current job for at least three months and lived in Orange County for at least six months. Little brothers or sisters must be between ages 6 and 17 and come from a single-parent or group home--and express a desire to participate.

The nonprofit program, which is funded by private donations and has offices in Tustin and Fullerton, now oversees about 300 matches and has 150 children on a waiting list. (Most are boys in the Anaheim area, Alexander notes.)

In addition to making matches, the program sponsors parent support groups, activities for children waiting for a Big Brother or Sister and short-term counseling for parents and children. All services are free.

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