Big Brothers Big Sisters Twin Cities Expanding Resources

Taking care of the youngest members of our communities is important to Opus and the Opus Foundation®. That's why early childhood education and youth development are focus areas of the Opus Foundation.

The Opus Foundation recently awarded a $50,000 Impact Fund grant to Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Twin Cities, a nonprofit that helps children achieve their full potential through relationships with adult mentors. The money will help the organization expand an online training platform and create a new skills assessment tool for staff and volunteers.

Influencing and Transforming Lives

An 18-month study conducted by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America found that children with mentors are 46% less likely to use drugs, 27% less likely to begin using alcohol, 52% less likely to skip school and 33% less likely to hit or strike another person. They are also more confident about schoolwork and get along better with their families.  

That's proof that mentoring works. 

Big Brothers Big Sisters Twin Cities (BBBSTC) serves more than 3,700 children during a typical year (mostly in the urban core of Minneapolis and St. Paul). The mission of BBBSTC is to create and support mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth.

BBBSTC matches caring adult mentors (Bigs) with children between the ages of eight and 12 (Littles) to provide support, encouragement and friendship. The organization recruits, screens, trains and matches Bigs, Littles and parent/guardians. Bigs and Littles meet two to four times per month for at least a year. They spend time together doing fun things like riding bikes, playing board games, watching movies or just hanging out. 

BBBSTC also provides programs that promote college access, workforce readiness and healthy lifestyles and safe spaces for self-expression and self-discovery. In addition to education, career and personal development opportunities, BBBSTC provides access to certain basic needs Littles and their families may have a hard time acquiring. For example, this winter they were able to receive donations of winter coats, hats and gloves that were distributed to families in need of these basic essentials we tend to overlook.

Online Platform in the Nick of Time

In 2019, the Opus Foundation awarded a $42,500 grant for an online platform that provides easy-to-access training and resources for Bigs and Littles.

“The timing was incredible," said Deanna Threadgill, Vice President of Programs. “We were able to launch the online platform in February 2020, just a few weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. The system was in place in the nick of time, enabling us to provide pre-match training online and a library of micro trainings for Bigs, as well as resources for families and Littles to help them prepare for academic success."

“Especially with physical restrictions during the pandemic, our online platform has helped us reduce barriers for getting high quality, timely and relevant training and support out to our stakeholders."

Next Phase of the Platform

BBBSTC is using the latest $50,000 Opus Foundation grant to expand the online platform with 15 new micro trainings. It will also fund development of a new assessment tool to determine skill needs for volunteers and staff with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and youth development.

“We believe cross-cultural relationships can be a doorway to increased cross-cultural understanding and breaking down systemic barriers," Threadgill said.

“We have wonderful volunteers but a tremendous disconnect of backgrounds between our Bigs and Littles. The assessment tool will help Bigs determine their competencies in DEI and youth development, as well as identify areas where they have skills and gaps. We can then assign training as needed to help ground them in cultural competence, cultural humility, bias awareness and racial equity."

Some new, timely micro training topics being developed include how to talk to Littles about COVID-19, the police, George Floyd, political unrest and race.

“We deeply appreciate the support from the Opus Foundation," Threadgill said. “They have been critical to our operations, especially during a really challenging time that required shifting to a digital platform to support the services we deliver."

Foundation Funding + Associate Volunteerism

I'm an active volunteer and have been paired with my Little since April 2017, along with several team members. Matt Rauenhorst, Executive Vice President & General Manager, and his wife Kristine have been a Big Couple for more than 10 years. Anna Bode, Real Estate Representative, completed training and is waiting for her Little match.

I chose to volunteer because of the benefits of youth development on every facet of their life, including future success. Having lasting positive experiences as a child shape your outlook on life. This organization has become more and more important to me as I can see a lot of the first-hand results. I was privileged to grow up with a big, supportive family with two older brothers. I was a bit removed from knowing how important it is to have an older role model to guide you and look up to with the immediate nature of having these figures in my life from the beginning. Over the last few years I have seen my Little become more confident and outgoing and have seen his curiosity and personality grow exponentially.

“It's clear the team at Opus is passionate about philanthropy and empowering kids," said Threadgill. “In addition to generously funding our programs, they go much farther by sharing their time to help the smallest and most vulnerable members of our community."


The Opus Foundation® is the corporate foundation for Opus, and is building community for a better tomorrow by supporting projects and programs that make our communities better places to live, work and raise families through grants to nonprofit organizations in the areas of early childhood education, youth development, workforce development, community revitalization and pressing/emerging needs. Read more about the Foundation's work. The Opus Foundation is a separate entity from The Opus Group and is led by its own Board of Directors.