THE NATIONAL PROGRAM began in 1904 a young New York City court clerk named Ernest Coulter noticed the same troubled boys showing up in his courtroom over and over again. Realizing that none of these kids had a stable, caring adult in their lives, he wondered if responsible volunteers from the community could help these kids stay out of trouble. He didn't realize he was starting a movement. By 1912, "Big Brothers" were volunteering in 26 cities.

By 1916, Big Brothers had spread to 96 cities around the country. Similarly, Ladies of Charity noticed troubled young girls lacked a stable, caring adult as well so its members began befriending the girls who came through the New York Children's Court. This, too, began a chain reaction, and the group eventually became a nationwide organization called "Catholic Big Sisters."

To learn more about our organization from the National Office, click here.

Don A. Wolf, president of what is now known as Do it Best, mobilized support to create Big Brothers of Greater Fort Wayne. The Agency provided mentoring relationships for 27 young boys its first year. Frank Zirille served as the first Executive Director; Don A. Wolf was elected as the inaugural President of the Board of Directors.

The first caseworker was hired & the first special event fundraiser, an IU Intrasquad Game, was held.

Demand for Big Brother programs grew so an outreach office was established to serve DeKalb, Noble, and Steuben counties. The first Gourmet Dinner fundraiser was held.

Fort Wayne Foundation provides a grant to expand the office space. Big Sisters is founded with the help of the United Way, and the agency adopted the name of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Greater Fort Wayne.

Wolf, as the national president of Big Brothers of America, merges Big Brothers of America with Big Sisters International to form Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America.

Two new offices are established to serve Adams & Wells counties as well as Huntington & Whitley counties with assistance from the Lily Endowment. Dan Coats is elected as the fourth President of the Board of Directors. Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Greater Fort Wayne is admitted as full member of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America.

Arby's sponsors the first Park Run fundraiser. Casa D'Angelo sponsors the first Spaghetti Dinner fundraiser.

Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Greater Fort Wayne is accepted as a member agency of the United Way of Allen County. The first Bowl For Kids' Sake fundraiser is conducted.

A local TV channel begins airing the Wednesday's Child series highlighting unmatched Little Brothers and Sisters.  An office is opened in Kosciusko county

A peak year for matches, 638 matches are created! The Cruisin' Hoosiers of Warsaw conducted its first annual Cruise In to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters. The BBBS office at 2439 Fairfield Avenue in Fort Wayne is purchased.

After renovation, BBBS moves from its old location at 919 Fairfield to its new building.

The First Friends program is established to provide interim mentoring services for youth waiting for a Big Brother or Big Sister. BBBS makes its 2000th match in history.

Frank Zirille leaves after 22 years as Executive Director to accept the position of Executive Director of BBBS of Metropolitan Chicago.

Jan Wilhelm, former vice president of Fort Wayne National Bank and board member of BBBS, is selected as the new Executive Director.

The agency changes its name to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana to better reflect its geographic area of service. The decision to close county offices – except in Kosciusko – is made in efforts to face a challenging financial situation.

Jan Wilhelm resigns as Executive Director, and Gregory G. Falk becomes the third Executive Director. 1997 ended in the first budget surplus in five years.

The Sports Buddy program is launched with the help of the Fort Wayne Wizards and the Fort Wayne Fury. The Lunch Buddy program begins with an initial commitment between Do It Best Corp. and New Haven Elementary. Twelve Lunch Buddy volunteers are recruited for the first year.

Essex sponsors the creation of the Arts Buddies program. Bank One, Do it Best Corp., and National City Bank become corporate sponsors of BBBS of NEI.

Josette Rider is named Interim Executive Director after Greg Falk announces his resignation.

After serving as Interim Executive Director since October 2000, Josette Rider is named as the fourth Executive Director in February.

The office space endures major flood damage after a torrential rainfall causing staff to relocate to Bank One office space for eight months. Staff is still able to serve 631 matches; an increase of 121 over 2001.

The first Amachi program volunteer is recruited. Amachi, a Nigerian-Igbo word meaning "who knows what God has brought us through this child" is a one-to-one community-based mentoring program, which matches volunteer adult role models from faith communities with children whose parents are incarcerated. Success to Significance, a Growth Initiative, was launched with a goal to serve 1,262 children by raising $1.4 million by 2006.

BBBS of NEI serves over 1,000 children in one year for the first time in its history.

In April, LaGrange and Steuben counties in Indiana and Branch and St. Joseph counties in Michigan are added to the Agency's service territory due to the dissolution of Michiana BBBS. A satellite office is maintained in Coldwater, MI. The Agency serves a total of 12 counties in two states covering 5,095 square miles. In June, the BBBS of NEI is named AGENCY OF THE YEAR from among over 440 agencies worldwide. It is also named a finalist in the CEO of the Year and Board of the Year categories. After raising $1.1 million, the Success to Significance Growth Initiative campaign concludes successfully by serving 1,385 children.

The Agency turns 35 years old and serves 1,512 mentoring relationships. The Agency receives an Indiana Achievement Award for Large Impact. Hillsdale County, Michigan is added to the service territory due to their disaffiliation with the Jackson, Michigan agency.

The Agency serves a record 1,803 children in one-to-one mentoring matches.

The Big Futures Program is launched – then called the College Success Mentoring – to serve children up to age 22.

The 40th Year Anniversary for our Agency. The Agency serves 1,972 children in honor of our beginning in 1972.

The Agency moves from its old building at 2439 Fairfield Avenue into their new building at 1005 W Rudisill Blvd.

The Agency introduces Community Development Coordinators to strengthen volunteer recruitment.

The Agency celebrates 45 years of service in Northeast Indiana!

We become Defenders of Potential through the national rebrand. Same mission & vision, now with a new brand targeted to younger generations.

Other Ways to Get Involved

Whether you get involved with us as a donor, Big mentor, partner, or advocate, you have the power to change a child's future for the better