Big Brothers/Big Sisters Tucson Prepares For Much-Needed Renovation After Their 50th Anniversary

February 10, 2014

It's an incredibly appropriate mural, in terms of the work going on inside the building, and relating to Downtown Tucson as a whole!

It’s an incredibly appropriate mural right now, in terms of the important work going on inside the building, the planned upgrade, and Downtown Tucson as a whole!

by James J. Jefferies

Sometimes, the shortest distance between a young person falling through the cracks and becoming another statistic, and a successful adult life, can be the power of a caring individual who simply opens their door and shares their world with that person. When families encounter a variety of economic and social stresses beyond their control, a role model can do untold wonders for a boy or girl who needs someone else to look up to or confide in. Mentoring is a powerful and proven remedy, with numerous studies showing that at-risk kids who take on a mentor are far less likely to drop out of school or abuse alcohol or illegal drugs.

This is the mission of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Tucson (BBBST). Last year, the organization celebrated their 50th anniversary, having been founded by Dr. Hugh C. Thompson, Jr. in 1963. That’s more than fifty years worth of success stories, intervening positively in the lives of young people in the greater Tucson area. Of course, this mission requires resources, chief among them, a headquarters that is conducive to elevating the prospects of Tucson’s youth with kindness and compassion. For over 20 years now, BBBST has occupied the Angel Youth building at the corner of Alameda and 6th Avenue.

This primary entrance has long been a bit on the gloomy side, and will see a much needed total overhaul beginning in just a couple of weeks.

This primary entrance (at the corner of 6th Ave and Alameda) has long been a bit on the gloomy side, and will see a much needed total overhaul beginning in just a couple of weeks.

While the historic building was certainly a welcome donation, the location has long been inadequate for their needs. The fact it has an address on Alameda leads visitors to an unused, two-door entry on the north-facing wall that isn’t easily secured. The building itself is poorly lit with few windows, and worst of all, the primary entryway on 6th Avenue is fronted by exterior walls and bars, which imparts a prison-like ambiance that doesn’t lend itself well to communicating a message of hope to at-risk youth. “We have a very positive mission…and right now, the building just doesn’t reflect that,” said Marie Logan, CEO of BBBST.

Luckily, BBBST has a plan to bring their headquarters into the 21st century. For a number of years now, they’ve been working with Imagine Red architects on a plan to renovate the building, to create a much more open, well-lit, welcoming facade that will provide a much sunnier environment for the staff, as well as the children and volunteers who come to visit. “It’s really about creating an environment that meets the challenge of serving the community, and one that effectively communicates what the organization’s mission is all about,” said Logan.

This rendering depicts the planned overhaul, which will be a terrific facelift for the entire corner, and more importantly, for the young people who come to BBBST to connect with their new lifelong mentors.

This rendering depicts the planned renovation, which will be a terrific facelift for the entire corner, and more importantly, a better place for the young people who come to BBBST to connect with their new lifelong mentors. Image courtesy of Imagine Red, LLC.

The moment to enact this plan is finally at hand. The staff has already been preparing to move daily operations into the basement in just a couple of weeks, and the renovation work will proceed above them through September.

While the everything is firmly in place and moving ahead briskly, the organization could still use some help from the Tucson community for this renovation. If you would like to get involved, either as a donor, a volunteer as a future ‘Big’, or a parent with a child you’d like to register as a potential ‘Little’, please check out the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Tucson website here. For a young person out there in the greater Tucson area, it might be the most important thing you do all day.

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