For boys on the Vineyard in need of a mentor, the wait list now for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cape Cod and the Islands is longer than ever.

Boys on the list for an on-Island big brother are experiencing wait times of around 500 days, far exceeding the pre-pandemic wait of around six months.

“That’s almost three times as long as normal,” regional director JR Mell told the Gazette in a phone interview Monday. “Actually, it’s more than that.”

Mr. Mell said the problem is that there simply aren’t enough male volunteers to become big brothers. “We saw this really start at the beginning of Covid,” he said.

The organization has yet to recover from a decline in male mentors resulting from the pandemic, as 16 boys sit on the year-and-a-half-long wait list for a big brother, with even more put on hold from the list by the organization. By contrast, female mentors have increased since the start of the pandemic.

In fact, there are more willing female volunteers than there are girls on the Island in need of mentors.

“We have some spares,” Edgartown police chief and Big Brothers Big Sisters board member Bruce McNamee told the Gazette.

There are around 40 big brothers on the Island, but when the number of female mentors began to grow as the program recovered from Covid, male mentors were nowhere to be found.

“We didn’t see any guys come through from Martha’s Vineyard at all,” Mr. Mell said.

The issue has become so prominent for Big Brothers Big Sisters that Mr. Mell said it eclipses all other issues the organization is facing. “Exceeding our need for funding,” he said.

To combat the lack of volunteers, Mr. Mell said he plans to focus on spreading awareness. The ability for a big brother to bond with a little brother can be time sensitive; Mr. Mell said that as boys in need of mentors pass the age of 12, they’re more likely to be influenced by their peers.

With the current wait times little brothers on the list are experiencing, “the reality of us getting to them in a timely manner . . . is not going to be successful,” Mr. Mell said.

He said volunteers are asked for a few hours of their time twice a month as a big brother.

In addition to an awareness campaign, Mr. Mell said the organization plans to host in-person meet and greets when the time allows, given pandemic constraints. Mr. Mell said he’s also planning a large social media push following the holidays. But for the time being, he said he’s banking on what he called the holiday “spirit of giving.”

During his time as a big brother, Mr. Mell said he and his little brother would go to harbors and pick out boats they both knew they would never be able to afford. He said simple activities such as that can pay huge rewards.

“We need all types of mentors for all types of kids,” Mr. Mell said, adding: “Just do activities you ordinarily enjoy doing.”

For current Island mentor Jim Feiner, that includes taking his little brother Hunter Bolduc out hiking, mountain biking and cleaning up conservation areas.

“I thought it would be fun to have a relationship with a young man — young boy — interested in life on the Island,” he said.

While Mr. Feiner said his relationship with Hunter was slow to start, the pair have grown to know each other well over the two years they’ve spent together.

“I look forward to spending time with my little brother,” Mr. Feiner said. “I think he enjoys spending time with me.”

Mr. Feiner said that becoming a big brother can be transformational for a boy who “really could use another adult in their lives.” And, he said, the connection built with a little brother can be one that lasts the rest of his life.

“I think I have a lot to offer. I think everyone has a lot to offer,” Mr. Feiner said. “I think it’s just great to share these things with another person.”