BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS OF NORTHWESTERN MICHIGAN
Since 1970 Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan (Bigs) has served over 15,000 children in five counties in northwestern Michigan (Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, Grand Traverse and Kalkaska). Currently Bigs is serving nearly 300 children annually, changing outcomes and reversing the downward spiral brought on by poverty and childhood trauma.
Vision: All youth achieve their full potential.
Mission: Create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth.
Mentoring is Fun. And most anyone can be a mentor and change a life. By participating in fun activities together and forming a trusting bond with a child, it can potentially rewrite a child’s future. AND change your life.
Facts. Comparison of children in the same demographic who did not participate in the Bigs program to children who were matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister:
- 77% did better in school
- 52% reported their Big kept them from dropping out of school
- 42% earned a four-year degree
- 46% have a household income of $75,000 or more
Wall Street Journal (July 6, 2013): “We found tremendous financial value generated through higher taxes and higher spending due to increased income and increased charitable donations in time and money. Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring programs generate an average social return on investment or SROI of $18 for every dollar invested.”
Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child (May, 2016): “the single most common finding is that children who end up doing well have had at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive adult.”
Both the Wall Street Journal and Harvard University agree that Big Brothers Big Sisters is the Gold Standard of mentoring and that an investment in Bigs will have a transformative effect on young lives and yield robust long-term financial returns and societal value.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is the most well-respected and well-recognized name in youth mentoring – and proud to share our accountability ratings!
- Charity Navigator
- American Institute of PhilanthropyAmerican Institute of Philanthropy
- Independent Charities of AmericaIndependent Charities of America
The Independent Charities Seal of Excellence is awarded to the members of Independent Charities of America and Local Independent Charities of America that have, upon rigorous independent review, been able to certify, document, and demonstrate on an annual basis that they meet the highest standards of public accountability, program effectiveness, and cost effectiveness. These standards include those required by the US Government for inclusion in the Combined Federal Campaign, probably the most exclusive fund drive in the world. Of the 1,000,000 charities operating in the United States today, it is estimated that fewer than 50,000, or 5 percent, meet or exceed these standards, and, of those, fewer than 2,000 have been awarded this Seal.
- Children's Charity of AmericaChildren's Charity of America
Big Brothers Big Sisters is proud to belong to the Children’s Charities of America fundraising consortium! CCA is a nonprofit federation that pre-screens and certifies high quality national charities working to protect and assist children in the U.S. and around the world.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is a proud participant in the Combined Federal Campaign. The mission of the CFC is to promote and support philanthropy through a program that is employee focused, cost–efficient, and effective in providing all federal employees the opportunity to improve the quality of life for all.
- Cecilia ChesneyChief Executive OfficerCecilia ChesneyChief Executive OfficerA 20+ year resident of Traverse City, Cecilia joined BBBS in late August 2010. Cecilia’s background includes ten years of experience in Communications and Public Relations with the Traverse City Area Public Schools, and most recently in the private sector in Sales and Marketing. “Cecilia’s excellent leadership, strong interpersonal and communication skills, coupled with her past experience makes her a great fit for our organization”, said Tony Anderson, Board President. “I am confident that she will make major contributions to our organization with her ability to build solid, collaborative relationships and respond to changing business and social environments. We’re excited to have her on board”, he said.Since joining the agency, Cecilia has been working with the board and staff in implementing our fund development and marketing plan which was developed in May of 2010. “Greater community awareness of our mission and the work our staff and volunteers do is critical to the success of our program. In order to re-energize our mission, we must work through our fund development and marketing efforts and create the awareness that is necessary for people to see that there is a huge need for mentors and financial support for our programs.” “I am truly honored to be a part of this organization. As the leading agency in our community providing vital one-on-one youth mentoring services, BIGS is uniquely positioned to not only continue providing these services, but to analyze how collaboration with like-minded organizations might benefit our youth and energize our existing program,” said Chesney.
- Krista GoldmanDirector of MentoringKrista GoldmanDirector of Mentoring
Krista Goldman is a Traverse City native and joins the Big Brothers Big Sisters staff after serving the Traverse Symphony Orchestra as its Executive Director for five years. Krista has 25 years of administration experience in the non-profit sector, with leadership experience in the areas of strategic planning, human resources, financial planning, marketing, relationship building, infrastructure strategies and community outreach.
Krista is a volunteer and board member of Child and Family Services of Northwest Michigan and serves on the Board of Directors of Building Bridges with Music, an organization that through music, promotes understanding, tolerance, respect and peace to youth throughout the state of Michigan.
“I am honored to join the staff of Big Brothers Big Sisters and serve its mission of providing children facing adversity with strong and enduring mentor relationships. A child’s well-being is of utmost importance to me. I feel a responsibility to take care of the children who may not have the benefits and blessings I had in my youth. Through our work at Big Brothers Big Sisters, we provide enrichment experiences and opportunities to nourish and encourage a child’s growth. Together, we are shaping the future of our children and community,” says Krista.
Krista has three teenage children and resides in Traverse City with her husband Jeff Goldman.
- Kris HoxieMarketing & Development SpecialistKris HoxieMarketing & Development SpecialistKris, a native to Northern Michigan, has been a staff member at heart since she began working with Bigs in 2011 assisting in event design and planning. Kris officially became a full time staff member in February 2014. She comes from a background in Sales & Marketing Coordination and as an owner of a local boutique event design and décor business. Kris was drawn to the program from the first moment she met Executive Director, Cecilia Chesney, and heard the stories of the children who have been positively impacted by the program. It has been a lifelong dream of Kris’ to work for a nonprofit and utilize her skills to help grow the vision. She is also a Big Sister in the program and is so blessed to be able to see the difference the program makes from all angles. She says, “I feel so fortunate to work in an environment alongside compassionate and dedicated individuals. Every day we work together to change the lives of children – is the most rewarding, fulfilling and inspirational journey.”
- Anton TeskeAdministrative SpecialistAnton TeskeAdministrative Specialist
Anton joined team Bigs as an Administrative Specialist in November of 2022. In this role, Anton will help support Bigs staff and the Northwestern Michigan Bigs Office. Anton has worked with and supported children in the community in several different ways. He formerly worked at the Grand Traverse County Health Department, Woodland School, and currently at the Munson Pediatric Specialty Clinic for Immunizations. Anton has a broad background in Administrative Support and is very excited to apply that knowledge to support Bigs and its mission.
“I am thrilled to be part of such a fabulous team at Bigs. It is truly inspiring to work with a team that is so passionate about helping children change their lives and support the community in several different ways. Bigs is an amazing organization and I am truly happy and inspired to start my journey with them,” said Anton.
Anton is a native to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He graduated from Northern Michigan University with a Bachelor of Science in 2013. He is a proud dog dad and loves taking his “puppers” out on hikes in the beautiful countryside of Grand Traverse County. Anton is a fan of the outdoors, reading, music, cooking, spending time with his family and friends, and enjoys film and going to the cinema.
- Jenny KrarupAdvocacy SpecialistJenny KrarupAdvocacy Specialist
Jenny joined team Bigs as the Advocacy Specialist for Charlevoix and Emmet counties in November 2022. In this role, Jenny will maintain a consistent presence within the communities to help develop, cultivate, and steward relationships with the community and business organizations, as well as with community leaders, schools and individuals.
Jenny has resided in Northern Michigan for the past 30 years. She joins our team with over 20 years of Customer Service and Sales experience, and as an owner of a local wedding and events coordination business she has shared life’s most precious moments with hundreds of families. She proudly lives in Charlevoix, where she shares her life with her Husband, daughters, mother and dogs. She enjoys spending time with her family by traveling both domestic and internationally, camping, trailing, snowmobiling, boating, fishing and taking advantage of Charlevoix’s beautiful beaches.
While Jenny is new to the Bigs Mission, she and her family were involved in the Northern Michigan Foster care system from 2013 to 2019 opening their hearts and home as a Foster and Adoptive Family. She says, “Being a foster mom was the hardest, most rewarding experience in my life. Our family made a difference in the lives of 18 children and their families. Choosing to close our license was the hardest decision we have ever made, but having been given the opportunity to love those children and the honor of adopting has filled my heart and soul.” She continues by saying, “I have searched for a new way to positively impact the lives of youth in our great community and was inspired by the mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters. I am truly grateful to be a part of the Bigs Team and excited to continue helping our youth.”
- Christie Ward-StrahanSenior Mentoring SpecialistChristie Ward-StrahanSenior Mentoring Specialist
Christie was hired as a case manager in 2006. This was not her first introduction to Bigs mission however, as prior to that she was a Big Sister for nearly 6 years to one Little Sister named Liz. Today Christie and Liz remain friends, and although miles separate them, they are close in heart.
Christie earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from Ferris State University. During the time she was completing her degree, she had the opportunity to complete an intensive internship with Child and Family Services in Traverse City, working in their Safe Haven program.
With Bigs over the years, Christie’s role adapted to taking on programmatic coordination in Charlevoix and Emmet counties. She is now the Senior Mentoring Specialist with Char/Em as her focus area. She works with both volunteers and families to recruit, train and support matches throughout the two counties.
“I often coin the phrase: “It matters to this one!” One child at a time, one relationship at a time, we have this unique opportunity to support children as they realize their full potential. This changes lives and ripples to change communities.”
Christie resides in Charlevoix, her hometown, with her husband Michael and two children, Lucas and Isla. Together they are on a quest to visit and experience all 50 states. More locally she loves all the seasons and finds joy in the beautiful landscape we call home. Christie can often be found, in her spare time, volunteering at her kids' elementary school, for the local chamber and various organizations and boards. With her limited green thumb, she enjoys gardening and also has quite the reading list in progress.
- Alison LantzMentoring SpecialistAlison LantzMentoring Specialist
Alison joined team Bigs in 2021 before which she was previously the Director of Early Childhood Programs in Suttons Bay, most recently helping families with arrangements for loved ones at a local funeral home. She taught preschool and is a former member of the Leelanau County Family Coordinating Council. Alison has extensive training in Applied Behavioral Analysis which provides great insight as a Mentoring Specialist, as she provides volunteer and child enrollment and match support for community and school-based programs in Grand Traverse County.
"I am thrilled to be working with the wonderful team at Bigs. I truly believe it takes just one caring adult to change a child's life and am so honored to be able to help support those relationships," said Alison.
Alison and her husband Ben have 7 children and 2 dogs. She loves spending time with her kids and her beautiful grandchildren and is a diehard Detroit Tigers Fan.
- Robin SmillieSchool LiaisonRobin SmillieSchool Liaison
After 24 years as the General Manager of Garden Goods in Traverse City, Robin has joined Team Bigs as a School Liaison, recruiting more children into our program and providing critical data demonstrating the impact of mentoring. Robin has a passion for creating and nurturing meaningful, lasting relationships and plans to do just that within the Big's community. As a 20-year TCAPS volunteer, she has created connections and friendships that remain today.
"I am blessed to be a member of the Bigs Team of Northwestern Michigan. I believe that every child deserves to have the resources to be successful and that all children can benefit from a safe, trusting and compassionate relationship with a mentor," said Robin.
Robin and her husband Dave Cox have called Traverse City their home for 30 years and raised both of their children here.
- Brooke StebnerMentoring SpecialistBrooke StebnerMentoring Specialist
Brooke joined team Bigs as a Mentoring Specialist in 2022. In this role, Brooke will create & support Big & Little matches and continue to help them build a bond that will last a lifetime!
Brooke earned a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Eastern Michigan University, has worked as a substitute teacher for all grade levels, taught preschool and even taught kindergarten & English in South Korea. Her vast experiences and 20+ years of involvement in the education field allow her to bring a wealth of special skills and talents to her role.
"Knowing that the work I do each day could potentially lead to making even one child’s life better, makes coming to work rewarding. I am thankful every day that I get to work with such an awesome team and am so very excited to be a part of such an amazing program."
Brooke is mom to two amazing children, Gus & Iris, and married to a wonderful husband, Kenny.
- Brian JohansonMentoring SpecialistBrian JohansonMentoring Specialist
Brian received a Bachelor’s degree from George Mason School of Business and has owned his own businesses for a majority of his career. From the streets of Bo, Sierra Leone, to working with children in his local communities, to being a Big Brother, Brian has been serving youth in a myriad of ways for over 20 years. He is driven to advocate, mentor, and provide for our future leaders.
"As a Big Brother my Mentoring Specialist has provided invaluable support, feedback and encouragement, coaching me along the way and helping me to establish a solid foundational relationship with my Little Brother Braxton. Because of the support I receive, I was driven to become a Mentoring Specialist and make good things possible in fostering positive outcomes in the lives of Bigs and Littles. Children are our future, and I have been taking action to help children heal, prosper and feel loved. With a grateful heart, I am honored to be a part of Team Bigs."
As a Mentoring Specialist, Brian will create & support Big & Little matches and continue to help them build a bond that will last a lifetime!
Brian is a Michigan native, a father to two incredible adult daughters and has been married to his lovely wife Amber for 33 years. He enjoys mountain biking and everything and anything related to the outdoors, but is known to play a video game now and again especially at his daughters request.
- Erica EmburyMentoring SpecialistErica EmburyMentoring Specialist
Erica joined team Bigs as a Mentoring Specialist in October of 2022. In this role, Erica will support Bigs and Littles through community-based matches throughout Grand Traverse County. She will also provide support in Grawn and Silver Lake Elementary schools. Her support will help matches build a bond that will create memories and moments to last a lifetime!
Erica earned her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Central Michigan University, and has worked in a variety of social and human services fields with children, adolescents, and adults throughout Colorado and Wyoming.
“I have a strong passion to work with children and believe each child deserves an influential, positive role model in their lives. I am truly honored to be able to work with such an awesome team and be a part of this amazing organization."
Erica was raised in Michigan and has lived in Colorado and Wyoming. She is a dog mom to two rescues and enjoys hiking, traveling, camping, cooking, karaoke, and spending time with her family.