Spend even a short time talking with Jan Glick and it becomes evident just how deeply she believes in the mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh.
For close to 15 years, Glick served as the organization’s chief executive officer. She’s retiring at the end of November, and Becky Flaherty has succeeded her in the role.
Contacted by the Chronicle to discuss her time at the helm of the nonprofit, Glick said, only half joking, “I don’t really have a story to tell, but if you want to highlight Big Brothers Big Sisters and our need for volunteers, that would be amazing.”
Glick, 70, said she was ready to turn the reins over to a younger person and spend time “finding out what I want to be when I grow up.”
Glick grew up in South Bend, Indiana, in what she called a “Conservadox” house before moving to Pittsburgh in 1970. Previous to her time at Big Brothers Big Sisters, she worked at Contact Pittsburgh, a crisis prevention and suicide prevention organization serving teens.
During her tenure with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Glick helped the organization weather several challenges and grow in new ways. The agency was in serious financial straits when she accepted the CEO role, Glick said, but now “we’re very solid.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters is a one-to-one youth mentoring program partnering children (or “littles,” as they are known by the organization) age 6-18, from single-parent, low-income households, with adult volunteers.
Child safety, Glick said, is paramount to the organization, so each child requires case management to constantly assess security and quality.
In addition to the traditional pairings that have been the agency’s main work, Big Brothers Big Sisters launched new programs during Glick’s tenure, including “Sports Buddies,” with the intention of getting more men involved, and “Bigs in Blue,” which pairs police officers with children.
Mentor 2.0 is a program the agency launched that is focused on education as well as a child’s social well-being.
“We started the high school program with the idea of not only helping kids graduate, but graduate with a plan and the ability to execute the plan, because so many of our kids don’t have the resources to get into college,” Glick said. “If you’re first-generation college, it’s one thing to get into college; it’s another thing to be able to navigate the system.”
The pandemic presented new challenges for the agency, which is based on personal relationships.
“There was no face-to-face contact, and really, that’s what it’s all about — the relationship and spending time together,” Glick said. “It’s certainly not about Disney daddy or mommy. It’s about normal activity. It’s about throwing a football or baking cookies, spending quality time with your little.”
Glick said the organization used Zoom when their bigs and littles were unable to meet in person, and developed new activities for the pairs to do together.
Reflecting on how her Judaism affected her work, Glick pointed to her father.
“He was an amazing man and taught me some very valuable lessons about people and being judgmental and about spirituality,” she said. “Judaism is a very significant part of my whole life and how I’ve raised my kids. It is partially responsible for the person I am. I have always worked at jobs that were mission-driven.”
As she says farewell to the organization she led for nearly a decade-and-a-half, Glick said there is still one challenge she would like to see overcome: the lack of male volunteers.
“We’ve always had more difficulty recruiting men,” she said. “If a little boy sits on our waiting list for too long, it’s possible to age out.”
Still, when the right match is made, the relationship lasts a lifetime, she said.
She recalled a video the organization produced where little boys were jumping into a swimming pool.
“A little looked at his big and said, ‘You go first.’ And he said, ‘No, you go first.’ They were joking back and forth, and the big brother said, ‘Don’t you trust me?’ The little took his hand and said, ‘I trust you man, you’re my big brother,’ and they did it together.
“I started to cry,” Glick continued. “It was probably the most special conversation I heard.” PJC
David Rullo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.