The past year was one of adaptation for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Martha’s Vineyard as the organization grappled with how to keep Bigs and Littles connected during a pandemic.

Nate Luce, program services coordinator for the Vineyard chapter, said the organization also saw an increase in applications but a decrease in its volunteer pool due to virus-related concerns. Regardless, Mr. Luce said the matchmaking process continued while the organization looked for ways to keep everyone safe while also providing a space for interactions.

“That was the most challenging period, before you could give really good support in terms of what that would look like,” Mr. Luce said.

Initially, Mr. Luce said the program encouraged phone calls and FaceTimes with Littles. They also started sending out weekly emails with a list of activities, including virtual chess games and baking.

“Early on, one of our matches would have a pizza delivered to their Little’s house and she would get a pizza herself and they’d FaceTime a virtual pizza party,” Mr. Luce said.

When the weather turned warmer the organization instituted guidelines for socially-distant outings, something Big and Little, Rod Speight and Gabe Slossberg, embraced. The two matched up about a year ago and spent the summer mountain biking in the state forest and kayaking in Edgartown Great Pond.

“It’s really great seeing a lot of things through a young person’s eyes again,” Mr. Speight said. “I found it extremely rewarding and I believe we have a really good relationship, one where we enjoy a lot of the same things.”

Gabe’s mother, Jennie Slossberg, is a single parent. When her son’s interests began to expand she turned to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“I thought I should totally sign my son up,” she said. “He’s got these interests and some of them I can’t help him with. I don’t know how to fish.”

She said Gabe and Mr. Speight make a great team. “[Mr. Speight] is so capable and physical and sharp and funny and so they’re such a good match. And he’s not a 20 or 30-year-old guy. He’s in his 70s and he’s like, ‘lets go to the state forest and do 10 miles.’”

Ms. Slossberg has been a part of the program not just as a parent — she has volunteered as a Big Sister too. She said being a Big doesn’t mean just supporting your Little. It can also foster relationships in the community that everyone can benefit from.

“This is one of the many things that are so beautiful about our Island and the community,” she said. “It brings a lot of lives intertwined in a way that is beneficial in supporting the kids and supporting each other.”

Mr. Luce said the human connection between Littles and Bigs is the most important part of the program, a fact made even more apparent during the pandemic.

“Everyone’s world has shrunk,” Mr. Luce said. “We have the opportunity to help these peoples’ worlds expand a little bit. That is just as important if not more important now than it ever has been.”

For more information on how to volunteer to become a Big Brother or Big Sister, visit the Big Brothers Big Sisters website at