In 1904, Ernest K. Coulter, established the first Big Brothers of America program to dissuade juvenile delinquency by matching a child in the justice system to an adult volunteer who would act as his Big Brother. The volunteer would look out for the child and help him do right, make him feel important and to show that someone really cared about what happened to him.
In 1908, Mrs. Willard Parker established the first Big Sister program with the support of Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, who served as its first president and chairperson. This program was also conceived as a prevent approach to juvenile justice problems. In 1973, Big Brothers of America and Big Sisters International began to discuss the possibilities of merging into a single, national youth-serving organization. After several years of study, both Boards of Directors, recommended that the two organizations merge.
On November 11, 1977, then President Jimmy Carter signed into the law amendment of the original Big Brothers of America Charter officially changing the name of the corporation to read Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
In August of 1979, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Louisiana began operation under the auspices of Family and Youth Counseling. By 1984, the Big Brothers Big Sisters agency established itself as a separate legal entity with its own board of directors. In 1990, BBBS of SWLA, opened satellite offices in Jennings and DeRidder and the Ft. Polk office in 1993. The agency has come a long way since its humble beginnings in a small office with only one caseworker, it now has 15 full and part-time employees.
In 1998, the Lake Area office purchased its own facility and in May 2001 opened its new gym, game room and media center. The new facility will be used for summer/after-school programs, as well as, a place for the matches and the kids on the waiting list to use. In October 2002, Big Brothers Big Sisters became the sponsor for the Foster Grandparent Program (FGP). The program was developed in 1965 as a cooperative effort between the Office of Economic Opportunity and the Department of Health and Welfare (HEW) in Washington D. C. The purpose of the FGP is to enable low-income senior citizens to supplement their income in a meaningful way by providing volunteer service to special-needs children.
Today, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Louisiana offer a large number of services to the community. A variety of mentoring opportunities are provided for the volunteers such as, various group activities, summer camps, after-school programs and computer classes for seniors. The list goes on -- as do the smiles and laughter these magical memories bring annually to over 1,500 local children.