History

The story of Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City began on December 3, 1904. A young boy was standing before a judge awaiting his sentencing. Before the judge could render his decision, Ernest Coulter, a Clerk of the Court of Special Sessions of the City of New York, made this now famous plea:

"There is only one possible way to save that youngster, and that is to have some earnest, true man volunteer to be his big brother. To look after him, to help him do right, to make the little chap feel that there is at least one human being in this great city who takes a personal interest in him, who cares whether he lives or dies. I call for a volunteer."

When the first man stood and volunteered, Big Brothers of New York City (the founding member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America) began. In all, 39 men volunteered that day and 39 futures were saved.

Eight years later, Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt helped form the “Big Sisters” organization. In 1921, Big Brothers and Big Sisters joined forces and incorporated in New York State.

Mr. Coulter’s humble call for a volunteer in 1904 is still being answered today. And his idea for one-to-one mentoring is helping over 5,000 kids every year. With our wide range of programs, we’re now reaching well beyond our simple beginnings to include teenage mothers, children with developmental disabilities, and New Americans. We’re even mentoring other city non-profit agencies and sharing our experience, research, and best practices in youth mentoring.

More than 100 years after Mr. Coulter’s moving call to action, BBBS of NYC is still working hard to make sure someday every boy and girl in New York City in need of a mentor has a “Big” of his or her very own. Ernest would expect no less of us.