Who we are

For over a century, Big Brothers and Big Sisters have helped children reach their potential through professionally supported one-to-one relationships with proven results.

In 1904, a young New York City court clerk named Ernest Coulter was seeing more and more boys come through his courtroom. He recognized that caring adults could help many of these kids stay out of trouble, and he set out to find volunteers. That marked the beginning of the Big Brothers movement. By 1916, Big Brothers had spread to 96 cities across the country.

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. That group would later become Catholic Big Sisters.

Both groups continued to work independently until 1977, when Big Brothers of America and Big Sisters International joined forces and became Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

More than a century later, Big Brothers Big Sisters remains true to our founders’ vision of bringing caring mentors into the lives of children. Big Brothers Big Sisters currently operates in all 50 states … and in 35 countries around the world!

More Than 100 Years of Big Brothers Big Sisters

Ernest Coulter, court clerk, helps organize the first New York Children's Court; Ladies of Charity, later Catholic Big Sisters of New York, starts to befriend girls who come before the New York Children's Court

Businessman Irvin F. Westheimer befriends a young boy in Cincinnati, OH; seeds are formed for the start of Big Brothers in Cincinnati

Ernest Coulter founds the organized Big Brothers movement by obtaining 39 volunteers, who each agree to befriend one boy

The New York Times
 reports Big Brothers activity in 26 cities

Ernest Coulter embarks on nationwide lecture tour on behalf of Big Brothers; planning begins for a national Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization

Big Brothers work spreads to 96 cities

The first national conference of Big Brothers and Big Sisters organizations is held in Grand Rapids, MI., leading to the later organization of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation

Big Sisters work geared to African-Americans is underway in Louisville, KY and Brooklyn, NY;

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., becomes treasurer of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation;

First motion picture based on a Big and Little Brother relationship is released by Paramount Pictures

Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation holds its first conference for agency executives;

President Calvin Coolidge becomes patron of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation

Six hundred delegates attend a Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation meeting in New York City on March 8

President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt become patrons of Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation

National Committee on Big Brothers and Big Sisters service is created to continue to pursue the formation of a national group

Big Brothers Association headquarters opens in Philadelphia

Norman Rockwell produces the sketch that becomes a symbol for the Big Brothers Association

Big Brothers of the Year Program begins, Associate Justice Tom Clark of the U.S. Supreme Court and J. Edgar Hoover are named

Ernest Coulter dies

Big Brothers Association is chartered by Congress

Big Brothers Association grows to 150 affiliated agencies

Big Sisters International is incorporated

Big Brothers Association reports 208 affiliates

Big Sisters International and Big Brothers Association merge, forming Big Brothers Big Sisters of America with 357 agencies

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America occupies its new headquarters at 230 North 13th Street in Philadelphia

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is honored with a commemorative stamp by the Postmaster General

Big Brothers Big Sisters begins long range governance planning process: creating standards and required procedures

Public/Private Ventures begins study to gauge impact on youth of having a Big Brother or Sister

Big Brothers Big Sisters kicks off Project 21st Century to develop mission and vision statements, goals and strategies;

"How-To" mentoring training developed

Public/Private Ventures Study research shows measurable, positive results on youth who have a Big Brother or Sister, seminal research in the field of youth mentoring

President William J. Clinton holds Volunteer Summit in Philadelphia; Big Brothers Big Sisters plays key role

Big Brothers Big Sisters International is founded


Big Brothers Big Sisters in Schools becomes a core program. Partnerships with schools and volunteer-rich organizations such as churches, colleges, employers, and fraternities are emphasized. The Amachi Big Brothers Big Sisters program which matches children of prisoners with church congregants is piloted.

Brand New Thinking marketing program focuses on the shared experiences to broaden volunteer appeal.  The tagline "Little Moments, Big Magic" is developed

The Service Delivery System, consistent approach for providing services to children at all agencies is created to increase Big Brothers Big Sisters’ ability to offer quality services to greater numbers of youth

President George W. Bush announces three-year $450 million mentoring initiative in his State of the Union Address

Big Brothers Big Sisters celebrates 100 years of serving America’s youth

First Lady Laura Bush stars in a public service announcement to recruit volunteers across the nation

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