Starting Something since 1904

At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we’ve been impacting the lives of children for over 100 years. And we’re just getting started.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida History


When Navy Chaplain Valerie "Elery" St. John DeLong received her orders to the Northwest Florida area in 1989, she wanted to serve as a Big Sister.  However, there was no Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.  Determined to establish the nationally known, premier mentoring organization locally, she gathered a small but dynamic group in the fall of 1989.  Chaplain Tyson, Captain Robert Jordan, Judith Merritt and Martha Krehely signed the Articles of Incorporation.  The vision of these volunteers and other supporters set the tone that has attracted outstanding board members and made possible the unparalleled success of our organization.  We have been providing one to one mentoring services for children in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, and Bay Counties since 1989. 

Little Sister Skyler, CEO Paula Shell, Valerie DeLong

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America - 100 Years of History

For over a century, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been helping change kids’ perspectives and giving them the opportunity to reach their potential. And we have over a century of volunteers, donors, and advocates just like you to thank.

It all started in 1904, when a young New York City court clerk named Ernest Coulter was seeing more and more boys come through his courtroom. He recognized that caring adults could help many of these kids stay out of trouble, and he set out to find volunteers. That marked the beginning of the Big Brothers movement.

At around the same time, the members of a group called Ladies of Charity were befriending girls who had come through the New York Children’s Court. That group would later become Catholic Big Sisters.

Both groups continued to work independently until 1977, when Big Brothers Association and Big Sisters International joined forces and became Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

More than 100 years later, Big Brothers Big Sisters remains true to our founders’ vision of bringing caring role models into the lives of children. And, today, Big Brothers Big Sisters currently operates in all 50 states—and in 12 countries around the world.