COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Children in central Missouri wanting to participate in the local Big Brothers Big Sisters program have to wait awhile.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Missouri has a waiting list of about 200 children. The average wait time for a child to be paired with a mentor is about one year. And for some children who prove difficult to match, that wait can stretch on for two years or more.
Georgalu Swoboda, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Missouri, said the disparity is sharpest for boys. About 51 percent of the Mid-Missouri chapter's children are boys, but only 38 percent of the mentors are men.
"For some reason men are less likely to come in the door and just say, "I want to do this,' " Swoboda said.
She said her organization does outreach by sending spokespeople to fraternity events at the University of Missouri and other gatherings. Two years ago, Big Brothers Big Sisters held a "100 men in 100 days" campaign and 172 men signed up. But lately finding those men has proved difficult.
"It's a big need," Swoboda said. "Because most mothers" who sign their children up "are single parents. That's why they're coming - they want the male influence."
When Mary Voepel moved to Columbia with her son, Shayne, in August 2009, she signed him up for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. She said Shayne, 8, loves the outdoors and needs a male role model.
"I can't teach him how to hunt or play sports. I'm not a tomboy. He needs somebody to teach him that stuff, and we have no family around here, so it's hard," she said.
More than a year later, Shayne is still waiting to be paired with a Big Brother.
"He knows he's on the waiting list, and every now and then he asks about it," she said. "And when I tell him, he gets disappointed. It makes him feel like no one wants him."