I recently an email from the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks. In case you don’t know, there is a shortage of willing big brothers to be good mentors and role models to the boys in the program. In it, they identified one of the main reasons why men don’t volunteer is that “[they] have never been asked.” Well, count this as me asking the men out there to step up, volunteer, and be a good mentor and role model to these children. Poverty is a real, and often overlooked, problem in our community. For the city of Springfield over 25% of this residents live below the poverty line, and it is even worse for our children. For the Springfield public schools, over 50% (yes half) of the students qualify the free and reduced lunch program. Don’t think that the surrounding communities fair much better. For Nixa, 30%, for Ozark 30%, for Republic 37%, for Rogersville 30%, for Strafford 30%, for Willard 34%, of the high school students qualify for free and reduce lunches. Those numbers are just for the high schools, the elementary and middle schools (and the districts as a whole) are higher. In my life, education is what has opened up opportunities for me and it is education that will help reduce and eliminate the poverty problems that we have in our region. Littles that go through the mentoring program are less likely to skip school, more likely to graduate high school and more likely to attend college. I have the privilege of working for any employer that values helping the local communities that is has a presence in and backs that value up with corporate charitable giving and by encouraging employees to participate in an annual United Way payroll deduction. Concern for Community is one the seven cooperative principles. I will tell you that these things alone are not enough to solve the problems facing our community. If they were, our community’s poverty rates would not be worse than state averages. I would like to ask you to read the attached letter from the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks; then, I would ask you to join me in helping make this community better for the next generation.