January is the 36th anniversary of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Abilene and National Mentoring Month. “Thank your Mentor Day” was celebrated Thursday by the local non-profit to honor the mentors who have impacted young lives.
“It’s a time when, nationally, we can recognize the power of mentoring,” said Tim Yandell, regional executive director in Abilene and vice president of development for Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star. “And especially recognize those men and women who serve as big brothers and big sisters, and who take time out of their schedules to reach out and just involve themselves in the lives of a child.”
In 2013, BBBS served more than 700 children in the Abilene area with one-on-one mentoring through the community-based program and the site-based program.
“Our goal is multi-faceted,” said Yandell. “We want kids to have that special person in their lives who will encourage them to succeed, to do well in school and to stay out of trouble. In Abilene, we want to be able to strive to provide a mentor to any child who needs or wants one.”
Yandell said January is the right month for National Mentoring Month, especially as the organization encourages more people to get involved.
“I would like to think because people are making resolutions and we talk about that a lot when we are recruiting, why not make a decision this year to do something that will help somebody else,” he said. “Mentoring really does make a difference in the lives of the kids that are served.”
According to an organization press release, a recent survey of adults who were a part of the BBBS program as children discovered that, “90 percent agreed their Big made them feel better about themselves, 81 percent said their Big caused them to change what they thought was possible in life, 77 percent set higher goals than they would have on their own and 42 percent earned a degree from a four-year college compared to just 22 percent of their fathers and 25 percent of their mothers.”
Courtney Martin, senior youth and family ministry major from New Braunfels, has participated in BBBS since her freshman year at ACU. For the first two years, Courtney and her little, Angelina, were part of the site-based program. Courtney visited her school once a week to eat lunch and play games like UNO, dominoes and cards.
“That was my favorite day of the week,” Martin said. “She knew what day I would come, because I would go every Wednesday, and she would stand at the door of the lunchroom with the custodian and would wait to get in line. She would scold me if I was a minute or two late, so I would try to beat her there to wait by the door.”
Last year Martin switched to the community-based program, and now she is able to take Angelina different places.
“My favorite part is going to church with her and seeing how excited she is,” said Martin. “She makes the miracle stories new for me.”
Martin cherishes her four-year experience with BBBS and Angelina.
“I get to spend a lot of really great one-on-one time with Angelina, and I think mentoring for me means that she knows that I really care about her,” said Martin. “It’s really good to have someone that is solely dedicated to pouring into them.”
Some businesses are helping BBBS celebrate National Mentoring Month.
One Smart Cookie donated cookies to BBBS in honor of National Mentoring Month for a raffle, choosing five random Bigs in the Abilene area to win cookies.
Match Support, which pairs kids with mentors, will also schedule an event at Mezamiz Coffee House for Bigs in the Abilene area called, “A Big Social” to celebrate their dedication. Match support plans to schedule the event in February because of time conflicts.