We are here to start something
Since 1904, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America has helped millions of young people reach their potential by providing them with the positive presence of a caring adult.
For years, Portland was the only metropolitan area in the United States without a thriving Big Brothers Big Sisters program. For more than eight years, Big Brothers Big Sisters provided mentoring programs to local children through the Urban League of Portland. Administered by five family centers and funded primarily by Multnomah County, the program served up to 140 children annually. In 1999, facing a loss of county funding, the Urban League closed many of its youth services programs, including Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Following the closure of the program, five Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteers launched an initiative to establish an independent and sustainable organization to serve Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties. This group of volunteers devoted substantial time, energy and personal resources to build a solid foundation for the program, winning support from former program staff, prospective mentors and local parents. By 2001, the group incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and went on to raise sufficient funds to satisfy requirements and became a fully affiliated Big Brothers Big Sisters agency.
In April 2002, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Portland began matching children facing adversity with mentors in one-to-one, long-term relationships. The agency added the School-Based Mentoring Program in the fall of 2003. That same year, the agency introduced Amachi, creating specialized mentoring services for children with an incarcerated parent. Branch offices in Washington and Clackamas counties were opened in 2004.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Washington and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Portland merged in July 2006, adding the service territory of Clark, Cowlitz, Skamania, and Wahkiakum counties as well as a branch office in Vancouver — becoming Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest. The new agency has grown to become the largest provider of professionally supported one-to-one mentoring on the West Coast, and the ninth largest Big Brothers Big Sisters in the country.
Our exceptional growth and high quality programs have earned us the national 2005 Big Brothers Big Sisters Agency of the Year, and 2007 Exceptional Mentoring Program awards. The Portland Business Journal survey of 2,000 CEOs named the agency one of Oregon’s 10 most admired non-profit organizations in 2007, 2008 and again in 2009.
In 2010, the agency launched Beyond School Walls: a work-place mentoring program.
In 2012, the agency launched the Apoyo Program, a partnership with Washington County Mental Health Services to bring a Big Brother or Sister to a child who is currently receiving mental health services. In March, The Board of Directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest named Andy Nelson as the agency’s new Chief Executive Officer.