Why You Need a Car to Volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters

The Pulitzer

Two readers wrote to Prince of Petworth to ask about doing some good:

I recently upgraded my kitchen pots and pans, and want to get rid of my old ones. They’re a decent brand (Calphalon) and are about 4 years old…Assuming they’d be accepted, does anyone have a recommendation of a good charity? I currently live near the U-street corridor, and while I’d prefer to donate to an organization that serves my immediate community, I’m not opposed to other suggestions.”

Below that request, another reader wondered about volunteer opportunities in D.C. If some of you have similar questions, the comments section is full of great ideas and answers. I know so many people who are open to giving their time to help others but feel unsure of how to start. This suggestion caught my eye:

Big Brothers Big Sisters for the DC area also has an urgent need for male volunteers. (Particularly those that qualify as minority, but I’m not sure they’re that picky.) You do need to own or be able to use a car on a regular basis to do BBBS, though. (Zipcar membership counts.)

That comment surprised me. I was unaware that to volunteer with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, you had to have access to a car. I was less surprised about the need for diverse mentors. I couldn’t stop thinking about the “car”-requirement; I wondered if it prevented people from getting involved, since most of my friends in D.C. do not drive.

I called Big Brothers Big Sisters of the National Capital Area and asked Michael Brown, their Director of Programs and Volunteer and Child Enrollment about the comment:

We don’t have a lot of children who are metro-accessible and parents don’t always want them on the metro. Some of the parents can’t afford the metro. When it comes to volunteers, we don’t care about race, color, creed or ethnicity. The majority of our children in the D.C. area are Black or Latino; the majority of their parents don’t have preferences.

I felt foolish as soon as he finished the first sentence. Of course there are children in D.C. who aren’t close to the metro, and of course, if they are young enough, what parent WOULD feel fine with sending them on the train? Ugh. My privilege wasn’t just showing, it was the reason why I was too clueless to grasp the logic for what initially seemed like a random, odd little requirement. No matter. I hope this post inspires some of you to give or get involved; I know it got me thinking about how I would spend my weekend.