In 1904, a young New York City court clerk named Ernest Coulter noticed 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.
Big Brothers was incorporated in 1965 after a year of study by the Sheboygan (noon) Kiwanis Club. Kiwanis put forth the initial funds as well as leadership. The Big Brother agency in Joliet, Illinois was most helpful in its assistance as this predated the existence of the National organization – Big Brothers of America. The first Big Brothers “matches”, locally, occurred in fall, 1965. Sheboygan’s Big Brother agency is the oldest in Wisconsin.
Big Sisters was formed a few years later as a separate entity. There were actually two independent groups that were simultaneously working on incorporating (one group in Sheboygan and one at Lakeland College). Incorporation was accomplished in 1972 and the first match occurred a year later in 1973.
In 1982 the respective Boards merged the two organizations to form Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Sheboygan County replicating what the two National organizations had done in 1977. The two agencies and agency staffs combined and of the original six employees from 1982, one still remains with the agency.