Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay starts mentoring virtually

Posted at 7:08 PM, Apr 08, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. -- Kathleen and Shianna are a big-sister, little-sister pair.

"I kind feel like she’s my little sister just living in a different house," said Kathleen Gewandter, Big Sister volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay.

Shianna’s mother, Barbara Miller, says Big Brothers Big Sisters has been wonderful for her 10-year-old daughter Shianna.

"She and her sister are adopted and that brings a whole gamut of issues. I can’t thank God enough for Kathleen being in her life," said Miller.

"She’s made me more open to things. It's just been a life changing thing for me," said Shianna, 10-year-old little sister

But because of social distancing, they can’t do things together right now, so they’re saying connected virtually.

Stephen Koch, president of Big Brothers Big Sisters Tampa Bay, says all 2,000 big and little matches in their program are moving to completely virtual meet-ups.

"A few weeks ago we had to pivot to start doing this because otherwise our bigs and littles couldn’t meet and we couldn’t make any matches," said Koch.

Big Brothers Big Sisters all over the Tampa Bay area are looking for mentors to volunteer virtually for the hundreds of children waiting for matches.

And Kathleen says until she gets to hang out with Shianna one-on-one again, she’s enjoying the new way they're connecting.

"It's much easier for me to spend time with her now, an hour here an hour there. So I think I’ll try to carry this over to when we’re not forced to stay virtual the whole time," said Gewandter.

For more information about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, or if you're interested in becoming a volunteer, visit