Our History

Empowering children to actualize their maximum potential for over 55 years.

In 1966 a group of local businesswomen, members of Zonta International, saw the need for a youth mentoring program for girls in Rhode Island. Boys were being paired with adult role models through Big Brothers of Rhode Island, but there were no similar programs being offered to girls. This group of women, whom we refer to as our Founding Mothers, was led by Dr. Dorothy Pieniadz, the first female Dean of Students at Rhode Island College.

The Big Sister program originally operated as an all-volunteer program, with no paid staff, and eventually became a program under the umbrella of Family Service of Rhode Island.

In 1985, Clare Kirby who worked for Family Service, was named as the organization’s first Executive Director (1985 – 1990) and the Big Sister Association of Rhode Island began operating independently, funded primarily by the United Way of Rhode Island.

In 1990, Bonney B. Sevellon was hired as the organization’s second Executive Director (1990 - 1997). During this time in Rhode Island, many non-profits were struggling to stay open. Under Bonney’s leadership, in 1997, the organization began a social venture enterprise, the Big Sisters Fund, to create a crucial funding stream to support the mission of the mentoring organization. The Big Sisters Fund, now the Donation Center Foundation of Rhode Island, collects clothing and small household items and the sale of these items supports Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island and 60+ charity partners in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

In 2011, the organization began serving boys and changed their name to Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ocean State. In 2014, Big Brothers of Rhode Island closed their doors and the two organizations came together.

In 2018, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America rolled out a major rebranding, and the organization used this opportunity to change their name to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island (BBBSRI).

Every Little has an incredible amount of potential, and we are committed to giving our Bigs the tools and support necessary to defend it. Your thoughtful donations make everything we do possible!

Donate & Ignite Potential Today!