Making a positive impact on the lives of children
Our History

Our History

Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) has a long history — both as a national organization and as one of the earliest youth-mentoring organizations in the Philadelphia region.


Ernest K. Coulter, Clerk of the New York Children’s Court, is credited with founding the organized Big Brothers movement.


Two years after the formation of Juvenile Court in Philadelphia, the Big Brother Association is established under the leadership of Charles Edwin Fox, assistant District Attorney of Philadelphia. In addition to the traditional one-to-one mentoring program, the Association operated a large boys’ club which included a gymnasium, swimming pool and library. The boys participate in supervised sports and developed skills in woodworking and printing. Charles Fox goes on to found Fox Rothschild, LLP, one of Philadelphia’s prominent law firms.

The Big Brother Association is incorporated on May 21, with 101 matches between Big Brothers and their Little Brothers.


The Big Brother Association is one of the 20 Charter Members of the newly founded Welfare Federation of Philadelphia, now the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania. National Big Brother and Big Sister Organization is incorporated. It was disbanded due to the Great Depression in 1937.


The national organization, Big Brothers of America, is founded in Philadelphia by the Philadelphia Association’s President, Charles Berwind. The Big Brother Association is one of the 13 Charter Members.


The Big Brother Association provides service to 200 boys living in the community.


The Big Brother Association of Philadelphia embarks on a decentralized neighborhood approach to providing service by opening its first branch office in North Central Philadelphia. Subsequent offices were opened in Northeast, Northwest, South and West Philadelphia, as well as Upper Darby and Chester.


Big Brothers of Chester County is organized by a small group of citizens who obtained financial support from the Lukens Steel Company in Coatesville.


Big Brothers of Chester County begins providing mentoring services to girls and changes its name to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chester County.


As a result of a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Work, the Big Brother Association begins planning the development of a Big Sister Program with the intent of reaching girls in need of Big Sisters.


The Big Brother Association implements a Big Sister program for at-risk girls and changes its name to the Big Brother Big Sister Association of Philadelphia.


Public Private Ventures, a national program development and research organization, conducts a study in eight affiliated agencies (including the BBBS Association of Philadelphia). This is the first nationwide study of a mentoring organization providing scientifically reliable evidence that one-to-one adult mentoring yields a wide range of benefits to children and youth.


Big Brothers Big Sisters of America plays a central role at the President’s Summit for America’s Future, and, under the leadership of Judy Vredenburgh, commits to a goal of serving 1,000,000 children.


The BBBS Association of Philadelphia partners with the Freire Charter School and begins to provide mentors to students in the school environment. Based on the success of the program, the Big Brother Big Sister Association of Philadelphia extends school-based mentoring to other schools.


The BBBS Association of Philadelphia partners with Public\Private Ventures, the University of Pennsylvania and local congregations to launch the Amachi Program, which provides faith-based mentors to children and youth of incarcerated parents.


The BBBS Association of Philadelphia and BBBS of Chester County merge to form Big Brothers Big Sisters Southeastern Pennsylvania (BBBS SEPA). The new agency provides mentoring services to children and youth living in Philadelphia, Chester, and Delaware Counties.


BBBS SEPA begins a new partnership with Teach for America and Shaw Middle School in Philadelphia. This initiative involves matching Bigs from the University of Pennsylvania to an entire classroom of children taught by a Teach for America teacher. The successful pilot expands to additional classrooms in 2005. BBBS SEPA serves 2400 children in 2004!


BBBS SEPA celebrates 90 years of providing Bigs to children in our region. With 2611 children matched during 2005, BBBS SEPA is the largest BBBS affiliate in Pennsylvania, and is one of the top BBBS affiliates nationwide.


Big Brothers Big Sisters Southeastern PA merges with Big Brothers Big Sisters Montgomery County, growing its service area.


BBBS SEPA opens West Philadelphia office to better serve the community and University of Pennsylvania volunteers.


BBBS SEPA works with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and Comcast to expand the agency’s successful Beyond School Walls program to additional BBBS agencies.

BBBS SEPA receives “Large Agency Board of the Year” award at the Big Brothers Big Sisters National conference in Miami. BBBS SEPA also is one of 17 BBBS agencies (out of 400 nationwide) to receive a “Gold Standard” award for growth with quality.


BBBS SEPA celebrates its 100-year anniversary.