Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Mississippi Valley celebrated its new home at 130 W. 5th St., Davenport on Saturday with thoughts of the future relationships that will begin there. The tours also gave visitors glimpses of the building’s history.
The organization provides one-on-one mentoring through community-based and school-based programs. These programs pair adult volunteers with children and the two engage in activities together such as attending sporting events, helping with homework though the school program.
“A lot of city leaders pointed us here. There’s a certain sense of permanency now with our program,” said president and CEO Jay Justin. “It’s a place that’s going to be a base for hopefully thousands of positive relationships in the years to come.”
The group raised about $650,000 for the acquisition of the property and renovations to meet historic standards as a local protected landmark, he said. The donations served a three-part purpose through funding a youth center, preserving a valuable piece of local history and revitalizing a building in central Davenport.
The Tri-City Building Trades Council partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters to renovate the building as an educational project, he said. Trade classes honed their skills while working on the site and community volunteers and journeymen from building trades provided assistance in revamping the structure to meet modern standards and maintain historic character.
These rooms will serve as the place where kids between 6 and 15 are matched with adult “siblings.” In the community-based program, for example, the two commit to spending at least 10 hours together a month and sharing fun activities in the community.
The building was burned at some point in its history, Justin said.
Possibly that occurred Jan. 23, 1873, when the Old City Market House burned down, according to Davenport Gazette archives. A back wall shows a distinctive brick roof line that differs from the rest of the building and scorch marks.
The Davenport Police Department moved into the old market house in 1877,
according to cityofdavenportiowa.com. Displayed in the building is a photograph of the officers in bowler hats and badges pinned on the left lapels of their uniform jackets.
“I think they would think this was awesome,” Sgt. Mike Piazza of the Bettendorf Police Department and a Big Brother said. “Kids are our future and unfortunately a lot of times we run into kids who are in trouble.”
The underlying mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters is to provide the positive mentoring that will help kids learn to make good decisions or even face up to when they’ve made a decision with negative consequences.
Piazza and his wife were matched up eight years ago with their “little brother” Brandon Stanton, 15. He’s teaching Brandon how to drive and the two families have developed close ties.
“It’s been great. I actually wanted to become a Big Brother in college,” Piazza said.
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