Facelift and Serious Renovation Coming to Big Brothers Big Sisters

June 22, 2011

Times are changing Big time for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

They’ve been in the “correctional facility beige” hulk at Alameda and Sixth Avenue since 1994, but you’d hardly know it.

The organization has mostly kept hunkered in its anonymous, institutional structure that executive board member Kevin Bedient had trouble finding his first time.

“I can recall my first day visiting the agency two years ago,” Bedient said. “I couldn’t find the building. I drove past it two or three times. It looked like a jail. Walking into the building was very unwelcoming. A volunteer said it best: ‘This building is dungeonesque.’”

That all changes, starting June 25.

Early in the morning, under wraps, artist Joe Pagac will paint a mural on the east face (Sixth Avenue) of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Angel Charity Building, 160 E. Alameda St. Early morning mural painting is the norm for Pagac, who decorates the Rialto Theatre walls with upcoming events.

The reveal will be at noon on June 25 as Big Brothers Big Sisters puts on a block party – or, better said, coming out party – for a new direction for the organization that matches children with adult mentors, or “littles and bigs” in BBBS speak.

“I’d like to think of it as Big changes, pun intended,” said Bedient, who chairs the organization’s newly formed building committee.

The mural is meant to announce to the world that Big Brothers Big Sisters is embarking on a major renovation of its home that has seen little if any improvement in the 17 years the organization has been there.

The renovations will start on the first floor of the three-level building. The plan is to gut the street level floor and put in new floors, ceilings and walls.

This is the floor where the match support services specialists match kids with adults.

Eventually, Bedient also wants to renovate the second floor and the basement, which for now is in decent shape. After the first floor is done, Bedient intends to freshen up the exterior façade and add “a proper sign.”

First things first, though. Big Brothers Big Sisters has a $50,000 bequest in hand for the $150,000 first floor project. The organization needs to raise another $100,000 in its “Little by Little, Brick by Brick” campaign.

The hope is to raise the money soon enough to get the first floor construction started and completed by the end of the year, said Bedient, owner of Advantage Air Mechanical.

The mural and block party are just a first step for Big Brothers new desire to be Downtown players.

“We want to be incorporated in Downtown,” Bedient said. “We want to be involved with different partners. We’ve talked with (Realtors) Buzz Isaacson and Mark Irvin. We want to have Meet Me at Maynards pass in front of our building. We want to be able to collaborate with Madden Media and Monkey Burger.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters has a relationship with Flowing Wells School District and wants to start bringing Flowing Wells students to its Downtown facility.

The organization also wants to tap younger “bigs” – University of Arizona students.

“We have not tapped that market,” Bedient said.

After Skrappy’s used the basement a few years back, Big Brothers Big Sisters transformed the basement into an elite place for kids called the Cox Corner with televisions and computers. The organization welcomes older “littles” to drop by to prepare for SAT tests.

Big Brothers Big Sisters has paired more than 10,000 boys and girls with adult members in its 47 years in Tucson. Currently, more than 500 children are matched.

For more information on Big Brothers Big Sisters please visit www.TucsonBigs.org.

by Teya Vitu