Since 1963, Big Partner Little Partner (BPLP) has provided Gustavus students with the opportunity to form a close, one-on-one relationship with students in the St. Peter community. What started almost 50 years ago as an organization with just 10 Gusties has grown to 190 pairs of big partners and little partners, making it the largest community service program on campus.
Big Partner Little Partner recently received a $5,000 grant from the Minnesota Timberwolves’ FastBreak Foundation, which awards two of these grants each month from October until the end of the basketball season in April. According to the FastBreak Foundation, each month they recognize a specific theme and select two organizations from a pool of applicants who represent “hands-on programs that positively impact Minnesota youth.”
“We [received] the check at the Minnesota Timberwolves game on March 7 versus the Dallas Mavericks,” Senior Comminucation Studies Major and BPLP Coordinator Emma Strand said.
Phil Helt, a senior communication studies and history major and BPLP coordinator, added, “Ten pairs are going to the Timberwolves game to be presented the award.”
Gustavus was chosen to receive the grant because “one of our volunteers, Phil Helt, discovered this opportunity in the fall and completed an application,” Strand said.
“Dave Newell, our adviser, brought it up back in October, and I said I would do it,” Helt said. According to Strand, “Phil’s work as a past coordinator and volunteer has had an enormous impact on our program. We submitted the application in early October and recently found out that we were selected as a recipient.”
Helt has been involved with BPLP as “a big partner for four years. I had the same little partner for two years, and then another for the last two years. There aren’t many opportunities to make a one-on-one difference in someone’s life, and BPLP provides that [for students],” Helt said.
According to Strand, there aren’t any specific plans as to what the funds will be used for, but she commented, “This money will enable us to plan intentional, beneficial activities for our pairs and support program growth. Our program attracts more and more families each year—and with a grant like this, we can better meet the needs of each of our little partners and volunteers.”
Dave Newell, the BPLP adviser, explained that each month BPLP organizes large group activities which are free to the volunteers and little partners. However, if there is ever a large group event off campus, volunteers and parents of the little partners have to help cover expenses if they choose to participate. With these funds, BPLP hopes to increase the accessibility to large group events. “This program is also largely funded by the United Way of St. Peter,” Newell said.
United Way Worldwide is a leadership and support organization with a network of over 1,800 communities in the United States. Their mission is to “improve … lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities around the world to advance the common good.”
BPLP’s mission statement focuses on strengthening the bond Gustavus Adolphus College has with the St. Peter community, creating a reciprocal relationship through the mentoring relationships that Gustavus students form with their little partners. As Helt said, “You’re giving, and you’re gaining [by participating in BPLP]. You’re making a difference.”