School closures and the move to remote schooling this spring had an enormous impact on all students. But for the “Littles” who rely on Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine, the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially harsh. The children, many of whom live in isolated areas of the Midcoast, rely heavily on meeting with their “Bigs” each week.

Sophie Piconi began working as the development manager for BBBS of Mid-Maine just a week before the COVID-19 shutdown in March.

“We had to jump in and look at everything we do completely differently,” Piconi told members of Camden Rotary Club during a recent meeting. The first solution was to immediately launch a Big Pen Pals program to connect the Littles with their Bigs via letter correspondence. Exchanging letters helped Bigs and Littles stay in touch, but something more was needed. Thanks in part to a Camden Rotary Club emergency grant, BBBS is now able to provide live, virtual links with their Bigs for Littles whose families desire this.

“We are so grateful for the Rotary support,” Piconi said. “Your grant went toward funding our MentorNet program, which links the children and their volunteers together virtually. MentorNet is a secure, safe internet program where Bigs and Littles can Facetime each other at a time when the kids are extremely isolated. MentorNet also allows our program managers to safely provide much-needed case management to all of our volunteers, children, and family members. MentorNet is a brand-new program that we had to pull out of nowhere because our regular program relies on a one-to-one, face-to-face environment. We worked together with a few other organizations across the country to bring Bigs and Littles together in a new way.”

Camden Rotary Club, which meets at noon on Tuesdays via Zoom, provides services and support for charitable organizations in Knox County and Lincolnville. To visit a meeting, contact Stephanie French at steph.griffinsg00@gmail.com for connection details.