History

It all started in 1904, when a young New York City court clerk named Ernest Coulter was seeing more and more boys come through his courtroom. At around the same time, the members of a group called Ladies of Charity were befriending girls who had come through the New York Children’s Court.

In 1914, Coulter embarked on a nationwide lecture tour on behalf of Big Brothers, and by 1917 the first national conference of Big Brothers and Big Sisters organizations was held in Grand Rapids, MI.

Both groups continued to work independently until 1977, when Big Brothers Association and Big Sisters International joined forces and became Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. [Read more national history]

1969

Keith Bovee and staff members of the Muskegon YMCA start a Big Brothers mentoring program aimed at fatherless boys. Big Brothers of Muskegon County incorporates as a nonprofit agency with an 18-member Board of Directors.

1973

United Appeal (United Way) funds the program with a $12,000 allocation. The office is located in Mission for Area People, and 2 caseworkers are hired. Within the year, the agency made it’s 100th match, but 58 children remained on the waitlist.

1975

Joan Workman of Muskegon starts a Big Sisters program, which later merges with the Big Brothers agency.

1980

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Muskegon joins with the local YFCA.

1981

Bowl For Kids’ Sake Fundraiser begins — bowlers win video VHS recorders.

1980s

During this decade, the waitlist swells to over 100 kids. BBBSL creats the Joey Ellis Award for outstanding supporters, in honor of a Little who died in a fire.

1997

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Muskegon expands to include Oceana and Mason counties, becoming Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lakeshore.

1998

West Michigan native Jim Dreyer swims across Lake Michigan on August 3, in part to raise funds and awareness for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

2001

BBBSL service area expands to include Ottawa County. Together with Muskegon County Health Department and Community Mental Health, Bigs and Littles grow a community garden.

2007

The first “E-mentors” program launches with Muskegon Technical Academy, offering on-line mentoring.

2009

BBBSL celebrates its 40th anniversary with a dinner for past volunteers, participants and families still in the program. [Read Susan Harrison Wolffis’ article in The Muskegon Chronicle]

2012

The waitlist for children needing mentors again surges to triple-digits; efforts are made to recruit adult mentors. [Read Cara Taylor’s letter in The Muskegon Chronicle]

2018

STEM activities for Bigs and Littles at the Lakeshore MCC Fab Lab are funded through Arconic Foundation.

2019

BBBSL celebrates their 50th Anniversary with a 60s-themed gala, “The Big Five-Oh!”