Years ago, Caroline Baum attended a fundraiser at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York city.

It was for Big Brothers Big Sisters, a national mentoring organization, and she still recalls the rapport she observed between the youth and “big siblings” who mentored them.

“The bigs and littles were literally finishing each other’s sentences,” she said. “You could see such affection.”

Later, when she read in the newspaper that the Vineyard program was looking for mentors, she applied to become one.

Since last June, she has been paired with 10-year-old Josie Chivers, a student at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School.

There are 20 Vineyarders like Caroline who spend some of their free time with children facing adversity, from poverty to academic struggles to a lack of individual attention.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters program started on the Island in 1974 and ranged in size over the years. At times it served as many as 60 children.

But the national organization was hit hard by the recession and in the years that followed, funding dried up for local staffing and office space on the Island.

Without a home or a face to promote the program, Big Brothers Big Sisters seemed to fade from Vineyard consciousness.

“I think a lot of people at that point thought the organization was gone,” said longtime volunteer Connie Alexander in a recent interview.

Concerned for the future of the organization, Mrs. Alexander enlisted the help of the Boston program’s chief executive officer.

“I got straight through to her, and I said, either this program is going to whittle away to nothing or we need re-infuse energy here,” she said.

An effort began to restore the number of matches to historic levels. Strides have already been made, according to the local chapter, which has set a goal to more than double the number of children enrolled by 2019.

“We are very committed to increasing the number of children we serve in the coming years,” said Hadley Luddy, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cape Cod and the Islands.

Currently, the organization has several big sisters waiting to be matched and is actively recruiting little sisters.

Children are referred to the program by parents, teachers, and school counselors who feel they could benefit from another adult relationship.

Mentors who sign up are asked to spend at least four hours a month with their little sibling for a minimum of one year, though many relationships continue. The average match on Cape Cod and the Islands lasts three years.

For children enrolled in the program, Ms. Luddy said the presence of a mentor often boosts self confidence and widens horizons.

“We see kids who don’t leave their community, they never leave Martha’s Vineyard,” Ms. Luddy said. “I think the exposure to an adult who has seen more of our world and had experience with life really brings a lot to kids who can benefit from that type of impact.”

Mrs. Alexander said she has seen the impact of the program firsthand as a teacher in Tisbury.

“There are so many kids that just thrive with this loving compassionate person stepping into their world,” she said.

Last year, Josie Chivers’s father signed her up for the program, along with her brother and sister.

“He felt we needed someone to bond with because he is always at work,” Josie said in an interview.

Last summer, she and Caroline, a freelance journalist, took hikes together and went swimming at South Beach. In the winter they made matching necklaces and friendship bracelets, and spent time at the West Tisbury library.

Over time, they’ve discovered that they have a lot in common. They both love frozen yogurt, birds and reading, and plan to spend time gardening this spring.

“I like her personality because she is very nice and she is helpful with me, and she is really fun,” Josie said of Caroline.

At Christmastime, Caroline took Josie around Vineyard Haven, ostensibly to help her find a holiday gift for her father.

But after trying unsuccessfully to peel off and shop by herself, Josie confessed to her true motives.

“She says, can I tell you something? I am trying to buy a gift for you,” Caroline recalled.

In the end, they picked out a turquoise vase together.

Caroline keeps it filled with flowers at all times.

“Do you have daffodils in it right now?” Josie asked Caroline during the interview.

She did.

“I am going to send you a picture later,” she told Josie.

For more information about Big Brothers Big Sisters, visit or call 508-771-5150.