EAST STROUDSBURG -- For young kids in the Poconos, Big Brothers Big Sisters of The Bridge has lent a helping hand in Monroe County for decades.
But now dozens of kids looking for a "Big" are forced to wait.
"It's a challenge, because we certainly aren't in business to have kids waiting on a waiting list. We want them to be matched and to be gaining the benefits of having a big brother or big sister," said Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bridge Program Director Tanya Olaviany.
Big Brothers Big Sisters say 44 kids, ages 7 to 14 are looking for a mentor and 32 of them are boys.
Jamie Willis of Cresco says she began mentoring 13-year-old Ashley about four years ago.
And says their love of fashion and shopping created a great big-little connection.
"It gives her a comfortable venue to talk about school and boys and everything else going on in her life, and it's also a positive experience for me as well," said Willis.
Willis says she's helped Ashley through her teen years and planning her future.
"She has been a remarkable experience in my life. She's part of our family now. I really do consider her a little sister," said Wilis.
Board members at Big Brothers Big Sisters say it's not hard to become a mentor for one of the 44 kids on the waiting list. It just takes some time - time to stop by a playground, a movie or even the mall.
Stroud Area Regional Police Chief William Parrish is on the Big Brothers Big Sisters board. He says programs like this are critical.
"There's been studies that show that children that do not have this are more likely to partake in at-risk behavior, smoking, alcohol," said Chief Parrish.
Mentors can begin as young as 16 years old.
"We need to be persistent. We need to ensure that the word's getting out about the need and the kids that are waiting for those mentors," said Olaviany.