Fort Wayne – NIPSCO and the NiSource Foundation have announced a donation of $50,000 to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana over the next two years. This donation will go towards expanding the Conservation Buddies Program dedicated to environmental education.
Serving 12 counties in northeastern Indiana, the Fort Wayne-based Big Brothers Big Sisters organization started Conservation Buddies last year with the support of older brother Andrew Niedermeyer and older sister Charita Niedermeyer. As passionate hunters, nature lovers, and volunteers with the organization, Niedermeyers noted the need for environmental education among the Littles in interactive activities to make wildlife restoration, environmental protection and outdoor exposure fun for Littles 8 to 22 years old.
With this generous donation from NIPSCO and the NiSource Foundation, the Big Brothers Big Sisters will fund programming, equipment, and supplies for two years. They will partner with local organizations such as Boy Scouts of America to host 20 activities, including two 50-match night camps, and provide professional case management for 10 new big and small matches.
“Environmental education has many benefits for young, old, and communities,” said Shelley Schwab, chief development officer for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana. “It connects us to the world around us, and provides pivotal teaching and learning moments about both natural and built environments. Our youth may learn about environmental education in the classroom but never have the opportunity to experience hands-on learning.”
“In 2021, NIPSCO provided $5,000 through the Environmental Action Grant to help Conservation Friends,” said Dana Birx, director of public affairs and economic development at NIPSCO, a NiSource company. “The program’s proven success and collaborative partnerships with environmental stewardship and conservation organizations throughout Northeastern Indiana, along with the demonstrated benefits of nature education to young people, is why the Big Brothers chose Big Sisters to fund this impact.”
So far, volunteers have guided the Little Brothers and Sisters through bow hunting, planter box maintenance, building a rain garden, shooting and teaching, taking care of honeybees, archery and much more. Through Conservation Buddies, Littles can learn to hunt, ride, learn about birds, and connect with their elder while doing so.
“What I’m most excited about about Conservation Buddies is giving our kids this opportunity to explore the outdoors and experience something they’ve never had before,” Schwab said. “It’s simply amazing. At our last camp it was so hot I thought everyone was going to be miserable. But when I looked at these kids, every moment from the smallest things like making a S’more for the first time to the big milestones like learning to swim in a real lake All I saw were those enormous eyes and cheerful smiles.
“That’s why I’m honored to work with NIPSCO to bring this programming to our kids for another two years!”
Big Brothers Big Sisters mission is to create and support one-on-one mentorship relationships that ignite the power and promise of young people. For 50 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters have operated on the belief that the ability to succeed and thrive in life is inherent in all children. As the nation’s largest mentoring network of donors and volunteers, Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong, lasting, professionally supported individual relationships that change their lives for the better forever.
To find out how you can positively impact a child’s life, donate or volunteer at www.BBBSNEI.org.