BBBS-ETN to make first-ever online matches during COVID-19 pandemic.


KNOXVILLE, TN (April 29, 2020) Agency to match mentors with mentees online starting Wednesday, April 29.

In response to safer-at-home guidelines – and for the first time in its 50-year history – Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee will, this week, make its first-ever online Matches between mentors (Bigs) and mentees (Littles).

The programmatic change, resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, will also signify the first time in Big Brothers Big Sisters of America’s 115-year history that Match Meetings and Match activities are approved to take place fully online.

Match Meetings, which signify the first time a mentor meets his or her mentee, typically take place at a Little’s home or school.

BBBS-ETN’s first digital Match Meetings will occur between Big Sister Madison and Big Sister Carmen and Little Sisters Tashira and Kiara – who are also biological sisters – on Wednesday, April 29 and Friday, May 1.

Big Sister Madison, a program coordinator at a senior home care center, and her Little Sister Tashira say they look forward to participating in outdoor activities when they can meet in person. For now, they’ll focus on activities like virtual tours of parks and zoos, and they’ll take advantage of the resources and online activities BBBS-ETN has compiled for Bigs and Littles. Their Match Meeting will take place via Zoom on Wednesday, April 29, at 2pm.

Big Sister Carmen, a medical assistant in Blount County, and her Little Sister Kiara both enjoy being active and say they look forward to painting their nails together. After their Zoom Match meeting on Friday, May 1, at 3:15pm, the pair plans to hold nail-painting sessions via FaceTime.

The sisters’ mom, Ty — who also serves in the healthcare industry — currently works remotely while homeschooling Tashira and Kiara. She looks forward to the additional connections her daughters’ Big Sisters will bring during a time when they are out of school and isolated.

“Now, more than ever, it’s vital to keep kids connected—we couldn’t be more thrilled to innovate by making and supporting Matches digitally,” said BBBS-ETN CEO Brent Waugh. “The mission of BBBS-ETN is more urgent, and our impact is more evident than ever before—we will continue to match youth with mentors and to connect their families with essential needs like food, rent assistance, and behavioral health resources.”

Both Matches will meet in person once COVID-19-related restrictions are lifted.


• BBBS-ETN’s first-ever digital Match meetings are occurring via Zoom.

o Madison and Tashira: Wednesday, April 29, 2pm

o Carmen and Kiara: Friday, May 1, 3:15pm

• The BBBS-ETN team is working to make interviews available with Big Sisters and with the Littles Sisters’ mom, all who work in the healthcare industry.

• Members of the BBBS-ETN team will be on hand for interviews.

• Photos of the online Match Meeting will be on BBBS-ETN’s social media channels and website,

About Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee

Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee defends potential in children through strong and enduring, professionally supported one‐to‐one relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. Youth enrolled in the program achieve measurable outcomes, including improved educational success, avoidance of risky behaviors, higher aspirations, greater self-confidence, and better relationships. This mission has been the cornerstone of the organization’s 50-year history in the Knoxville area.

During the COVID-19 crisis – and every day – BBBS-ETN is committed to keeping kids connected through a supportive mentor and dedicated case workers. The agency goes one step further, connecting both families and caregivers with critical services, serving those affected by loss of income, food insecurity, lack of healthcare, isolation, and anxiety due to COVID-19. Learn more about ways you can join our cause at


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COVID-19 — Thank You and Update


KNOXVILLE, TN (April 7, 2020) This is a message of celebration.

A celebration of those of you who have donated or volunteered at a food bank since the COVID-19 crisis began. The Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee team has made hundreds of wellness calls in the past week – resulting in more than 300 referrals on behalf of the families we serve; (a 6,000% increase over an average week). The vast majority of the requests are related to food insecurity and other basic needs. When you’ve supported area food banks, you’ve directly helped our Littles and their siblings, parents, and grandparents. Thank you.

A celebration of first responders. If not for social distancing, I would hug each and every one of you. And a heartfelt thanks to our Bigs who work in healthcare and to our 30 Bigs in Blue who continue to serve the community while remaining committed to your Little. You are all heroes.

A celebration of small businesses. You’ve stood with us through event sponsorships, in-kind donations, and more. We know you’re hurting right now, and we’d love to help you. Please email our team if you’d like to be featured in our upcoming small business spotlight. Let us know how we can help, whether it’s picking up take-out, buying a gift card, or ordering online.

A celebration of our mentors who continue to keep kids connected. We love seeing your FaceTime screenshots, hearing about how you’re inspiring learning while Littles are out of school, and seeing pictures of the virtual activities you’re participating in with your mentees. Please make plans to attend some of our upcoming virtual events, and let us know how we can continue to support you.

A celebration of the families we serve. Your resilience inspires us. If we haven’t spoken to you yet, we’ll be calling soon. And if you need help in the meantime, please reach out to me directly or to your Match Support Specialist.

And a celebration of this community. Of the donors who have reached out to see how BBBS-ETN is doing with event cancelations, market downturns, and decreased funding. Of the foundations who have promised to bear with us while we adjust our operations to serve the community during this crisis. Of the volunteers who have asked how they can help. Of our board and executive committee who continue to go above and beyond. You are all phenomenal.

These next few months won’t be easy for any of us. But, know that Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee will be standing shoulder to shoulder with each of you:

• We will continue our remote operations – processing youth in need of a mentor, interviewing volunteers, conducting orientations via Zoom, and – for the first time ever – making Matches virtually. We’ll support current mentors who are vital to kids who are out of school, isolated, and more at-risk than ever.

• We’ll continue serving as a hub for hundreds of families – providing resources for those who have been significantly affected by loss of income, food insecurity, lack of healthcare, and anxiety due to the uncertainties related to COVID-19.

• We’ll also continue supporting – and celebrating – each and every one of you throughout this time of turmoil.

And when this is all over, with your help, we will bounce back and our agency will be stronger than ever.

With immense gratitude,

P.S. We know you’re receiving a number of emails right now, so we’ll do our best to only email you when it’s absolutely necessary. In the meantime, you can sign up to receive more regular updates from me through our new CEO blog. And for the latest on all BBBS-ETN’s events, orientations, and public meetings, visit


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New Updates from BBBS-ETN


KNOXVILLE, TN (March 16, 2020) This week has brought challenges for all of us, across the country and right here in Tennessee. Yet – as I learn more than I ever imagined about pandemic protocols and terms like social distancing – I have never been more proud to be part of the talented team at Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee, and part of this supportive community.

Over the next few months, this agency – much like many nonprofits here and across the country – will be faced with tough decisions. But, with unique problems, we have the opportunity to craft unique approaches, to innovate.

Starting this week, for the first time ever, BBBS-ETN will interview volunteers and lead orientations via videoconferencing software. And, our team who is currently working remotely, will interview youth in need of a mentor on calls and video. Perhaps most importantly, our Match Support Specialists will continue to serve as a hub for hundreds of families – providing resources for those who may be affected by loss of income, food insecurity, lack of healthcare, and anxiety due to the uncertainties related to COVID-19.

Now, perhaps more than ever, the mission and the impact of Big Brothers Big Sisters are evident and urgent. And as we continue to navigate the myriad of challenges we anticipate (and many we haven’t yet anticipated) in the coming months, I want to reassure you that BBBS-ETN will be guided by a purpose and a plan:
If you’re a donor, know that your funds will be used responsibly as we continue to serve hundreds of youth and their families during this time of need.
If you’re an event registrant, we’ll prioritize your safety, and we will keep you up to speed on the latest developments on Bowl for Kids’ Sake and all events at
If you’re a mentor, we’ll provide resources for your Little and their family, as well as information to help you stay connected during this time of limited social interactions.
• And, if you’re in the process of becoming a mentor – though we’ve put a temporary halt on Match meetings, we’ll continue providing orientations, processing applications, and conducting background checks.

Finally, I want to say thank you. Thank you for believing in us. Thank you for believing in the kids we serve. And thank you for standing beside us for the last fifty years and now, as we face the challenges ahead.

With gratitude,

P.S. Our leadership team will evaluate the COVID-19 situation on a daily basis. We’ve even set up a website to track the status of all committee meetings, orientations, Match events, fundraisers, and events in the months of March, April, and beyond. For more details, visit We’ll also continue to keep you up to date on our social media channels—Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


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COVID-19 Update from BBBS-ETN


UPDATE (March 13, 2020) In response to increasing concerns related to COVID-19, effective today, BBBS-ETN strongly recommends that all Bigs and Littles avoid in-person match outings during the month of March (at minimum) and instead focus on building a friendship through email, phone, text, FaceTime, etc.

Our team has put together the list of activities below to share with your Little in lieu of in-person activities.

Practice Your Creative Writing by Sending Letters: Consider starting a story, mailing it to your Little, and asking your Little to fill in the next section and mail it back to you. Or, find fun postcards of places your Little might be interested in learning more about and mail them to him/her/them.
Chat via Skype/Facetime: A phone call can keep you up to date on how your Little is spending their time away from school.
Compete in Age-appropriate Digital Games: A friendly competition using Boggle, Words with Friends, or Quiz Up can be great fun! (And show you how much savvier your Little is than you!)
Start a Virtual Book Club: Order two copies of a book through Amazon Prime—or, my personal favorite, through a local bookstore that will mail one to your home and one copy to your Little’s home. Read the book with your Little, and talk about it over the phone. This will encourage them to keep reading should school be closed for an extended period of time.
Create a Match Activity List: Work on a list of new activities you and your Little would like to participate in together and then compare your answers over the phone.
Virtual Movie Night: Put on an age-appropriate movie at the same time and chat on the phone (or text) about the movie while watching.

As you know, Big Brothers Big Sisters has canceled group events and ticketed match events during the month of March. For an up-to-date listing of the status of all agency events, visit:

We are working diligently to provide additional resources for you and for Littles’ families during this time. Below are a few—please do not hesitate to reach out to your Match Support Specialist if we can pull together more information.

Fun and educational websites offering free subscriptions while schools are out
Resources for Bigs who are concerned with their Little’s access to food if school is out (Note that you may also call 211)
Information on how to talk to your Little about the Coronavirus
A comic for kids explaining the Coronavirus

Thank you for all you do for your Little, and again, please don’t hesitate to ask if you have questions or concerns.

KNOXVILLE, TN (March 11, 2020) As you are undoubtedly aware, COVID-19 is an evolving global, national, and statewide issue. At BBBS-ETN, the health and safety of our Littles, Bigs, partners, and staff is our first priority. We are monitoring the situation daily and following guidance from area health departments and school districts, as well as federal guidance from the CDC.

As a general practice, BBBS-ETN recommends all Match parties exercise best judgement when considering spending time together. Reach out to your Match Support Specialist if you’d like to discuss your situation or, particularly for Community-Based Matches, to discuss creative ideas for continuing to build your Match relationship without seeing each other in-person for a short period.

At this time, in order to protect the safety of BBBS-ETN community, we ask you to refrain from Match activities with your Little if:
• You are ill for any reason – even if your symptoms are not the same as symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath).
• You have traveled in the last two weeks to anywhere designated by the CDC as having a Level 2 or Level 3 Travel Notice (currently China, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea).
• You have chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, a compromised immune system, chronic lung disease and/or cancer which could put you at a higher risk from COVID-19.

Additionally, if your Little or their family reports sickness, we encourage you to reschedule your time together.

For Community-Based Matches, we also advise you avoid large gatherings with your Little. For the month of March, and in abundance of caution, BBBS-ETN will suspend all group activities, and we will not be providing tickets to sporting events or other large events. We will continue to monitor April events and be in touch if those are canceled or postponed.

If you are at home, school, or another location with your Little, please follow CDC recommendations noted below and encourage your mentee to do the same:
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue; then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
• If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
• Monitor your heath more closely than usual for cold or flu symptoms.
• We also recommend you consult your local health department for notices, recommendations, and warnings.

For more information, please visit the following websites:
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
• World Health Organization:

Thank you, as always, for being part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and please reach out to our team if you have any questions or concerns. If you would like to speak with me directly, please call 865.243.3879 or email me at

Thank you,


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