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Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

Ernest Coulter, a court clerk from New York City, started New York Big Brothers in 1904, which would eventually become Big Brothers Big Sisters. Coulter was influenced by the work of Judge Julius Mayer of the New York Children’s Court, where Coulter worked. Judge Mayer recruited influential men to mentor delinquent boys who came before him.

Coulter became increasingly appalled by the suffering and misery of the thousands of children who came through the court. In late 1904, he appeared before a group of civic and business leaders and described a boy about to be jailed: “There is only one way to save that youngster, and that is to have some earnest, true man volunteer to be his Big Brother, to look after him, help him to do right, make the little chap feel that there is at least one human being in this great city who takes a personal interest in him. Someone who cares whether he lives or dies. I call for a volunteer!” Every man in the room raised his hand.

The following year, Catholic Big Sisters, the first known Big Sisters program in the country, was formed in New York.