Our History

Starting something since 1961

At Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County, we’ve been impacting the lives of children for over 55 years. And we’re just getting started.

Over 100 years of history nationally…

For over a century, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America has been helping change kids’ perspectives and giving them the opportunity to reach their potential. 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. And, today, Big Brothers Big Sisters currently operates in all 50 states—and in 12 countries around the world.

Local History

In 1961, in the elevator of the U.S. Grant Hotel, San Diego Union writer Frank Rhodes asked Mr. Jack Levin about the meaning behind his lapel pin. Hours later, the men were still discussing the Big Brothers of Los Angeles agencies and their mission to mentor young men facing adversity. Realizing no such agency existed locally, they became inspired to bring the Big Brothers concept to San Diego. Levin quickly asked his business partner, Ben Townes, to get involved, paving the way for the one-to-one mentoring model still serving the county.

Since that auspicious meeting, Big Brothers Big Sisters has served tens of thousands of children, providing them with caring mentors and, in many cases, changing their lives.

View this video to learn about the passionate visionaries who founded Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County:

Here is a look at our history, from the start: 1961 – Big Brothers of San Diego founded

1978 – San Diego agency was incorporated into the National organization, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

1987- Big Sisters joined with Big Brothers of San Diego to create Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County

2004 – Launched School-Based mentoring programs: Bigs in Schools and Operation Bigs

2006 – Launched Amachi program for children of the incarcerated and Hermandad Initiative to serve Hispanic children

2006 – Served over 1,000 children in the year, First time in local history

2013 – Launch of Beyond School Walls

2014- Celebrated 10 years of Operation Bigs, which served over 1,300 Navy and Marine children in 9 different sites and expanded the program into Community-Based Mentoring.

2014 – Moved local headquarters to City Heights

2015- Launch of Big Futures initiative

2016 – Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County Board of Directors named Board of the Year among all Big Brothers Big Sisters Affiliates

2016 – Launch of Healthy Futures enhancement programming and Ayana Chaldean Mentoring Program

2019 – Expansion of service age of Littles to 21

2021 – Celebration of our 60th year in San Diego