Chattanooga's Best Places to Work 2022: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Chattanooga

Long-running mentoring group laying the groundwork to help many more young people throughout the region

* Year established: 1957

* Employees: 18

* Milestones: One of Chattanooga's oldest non-profits, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Chattanooga turns 65 years old this year. Since it was established in 1957, the organization has served more than 20,000 Chattanooga area young people by pairing them with adult mentors.

The group serves young people in Hamilton, Marion and Bradley counties in Tennessee and Walker, Catoosa and Dade counties in Georgia. Big Brothers Big Sisters' mission is to "develop positive relationships that have a direct and lasting effect on the lives of young people in our community."

At the moment the non-profit is in the middle of a major renovation of its headquarters building at 2015 Bailey Avenue, which will be a springboard for reinvigorating the organization after COVID-19, says CEO Jessica Whatley. During the COVID-19 pandemic the organization realized it could economize on office space, she said, but still plans to add indoor square footage and outdoor amenities for youth programs as part of the ongoing redo.

On the drawing board are enhanced programs for high-school age and older members such as internships, work-force development classes, ACT prep and more, she said.

* Why this is a Best Place to Work: Two measurables stood out to employees about what makes Big Brothers Big Sisters a top workplace: a 50-50 split between in-office and out-of-office work hours and 100-percent employer-paid health insurance premiums, a perk that's becoming rarer and rarer in the workplace.

CEO Whatley said she realized during the pandemic that the organization could create efficiencies through remote work. Plus, many employees have school-age children at home and appreciate flexible hours to accommodate the obligations of family life, she said. The renovation of the Big Brothers Big Sisters headquarters has been tweaked to place two workers in each office, creating space efficiencies around hybrid work schedules, Whatley said.

Too, the organization goes to great lengths to foster camaraderie and teamwork among staff. They have a "lunch buddies" program to keep staff connected and schedule team days for such morale building activities as group meals and trips to Top Golf.

* Quotable, from CEO Jessica Whatley: "We are definitely in a rebuild post COVID-19 since a lot of what we do are school-based programs. We are looking at expanding services. Between our building (renovation) our anniversary and coming out of COVID, we are trying to prepare for then next 50 years."


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