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Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies merge
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LARGO – Two local Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies are joining forces with a goal of pairing more children with caring adult mentors across Tampa Bay.

The boards of directors from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay have unanimously voted to merge. Previously, both nonprofit organizations collaborated on a variety of projects, serving their respective communities for nearly 50 years.

Susan Rolston, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County, retired on July 12; Stephen Koch, the current CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay is now the CEO for the entire Tampa Bay area. Rolston and Koch have worked closely throughout the process with one goal in mind: to help children in our community who want – and need – a mentor in their lives.

The board of directors from each agency is confident that their decision to merge will lead to even more positive outcomes for more youth, including improved school performance, increased high school graduations and avoidance of the juvenile justice system. The combined agency will serve more than 3,350 children by the end of 2014, with plans for continued growth.

“My journey with Big Brothers Big Sisters began 13 years ago, and it’s wonderful to leave this legacy. It’s something we’ve considered for years and now the timing is right to move forward as one agency,” Rolston said. “At the end of the day, it’s about serving more children and truly bettering the future of the community we live in.”

Koch, an attorney who first became involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters 20 years ago as a volunteer, is looking forward to all that can be accomplished in the future.

“As a consolidated agency, we will be much better positioned to provide a Big Brother or a Big Sister to the more than 1,000 children currently on our waiting list; this is our primary focus,” Kock said. “We will have increased relevancy and a broader perspective to reach more children and volunteers, as well as increased public awareness about the effectiveness of our evidence-based program.

“We have many staff, board members and volunteers who live in one county, but work across the bay and vice versa. It’s exciting how our merger will ultimately improve and expand our impact, as well as increase our efficiency,” Koch added.

The executive team also includes newly hired Pat Craven, who will serve as the Regional Director in Pinellas County as well as have the responsibility to raise funds to support Big/Little matches agency-wide.

“We are looking forward to leveraging our collective strengths to ensure that more children who need the guidance of a Big Brother, Big Sister or Big Couple will receive it and achieve success in life,” said Craven.

The merged agency will be called Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay and serve children in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, Citrus, Hernando, and Sumter counties, with offices in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Lakeland. David Fox, Senior Vice-President for Valpak in St. Petersburg is the agency’s new board chair.

The merger will be officially effective January 1, 2015.
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