Big Brothers and Big Sisters

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 5, 2001

make a difference in children’s lives


Features Editor

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Spring is a time for new beginnings, and there is no better time to begin sharing one’s life with a child.

Throughout Pike County, there are children who are waiting and hoping for a friend to come into their lives. Right now, there are more than 30 children who need a special friend and are anxiously waiting for a "match" that could change their lives.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters organization brings "friends" together by matching a "big" with a "little." Too often, however, there are more "littles" than "bigs."

Big Brothers Big Sisters is a nationwide organization that is based locally for about three years. Until recently, all of the big brothers and big sisters were Troy State University students. But, with a little nudging from Tennie Jarrell, coordinator of school-based services for Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Sandra Butler, outreach coordinator, four adults from the Troy community came up "big" and the experience has been as meaningful to them as to the "littles."

Linda Carter and Larry Jarrell joined the organization as school-based "friends" and Beth Lakey and Shelby Tuck signed on as community-based friends.

Jarrell, who is an assistant district attorney, said his work schedule limits the amount of time he can spend as a big brother, so he volunteered one hour a week to the program and goes to the school to spend time with his little friend.

He jokingly said his wife is the reason he became involved and, perhaps, there is some truth to that. But, the reason he remains involved is a shy little boy who makes Jarrell feel very special.

"We were paired because he likes to draw and so do I," Jarrell said. "He is very shy and, at first, he had little to say. Drawing was an ice breaker for us and we do a lot of it. But, I help him with his math – he struggles with it – and with his reading."

Jarrell said he was bit rusty with a fourth grader and it took some getting used to for both of them.

But, when the breakthrough came, it came in the form of a grin from ear to ear.

"The smile was worth it all," Jarrell said. "In the five weeks, I’ve been a big brother to him, I can already see a difference in his personality. He’s no longer shy and withdrawn. Having a friend can make all the difference in the world, so can being a friend."

Lakey and Tuck are community-based volunteers, meaning the time they spend with their "littles" is longer and usually outside the school environment.

Both have jobs that allow more flexibility in scheduling visits and both have found that being a big brother or big sister isn’t all giving.

"You get back as much, if not more than you give," Lakey said. "Being a big sister has many rewards. Seeing my little sister do things she thought she couldn’t do is exciting and fulfilling. She is making progress in school and having someone to work with her has made a world of difference."

Lakey’s little sister lacked self-confidence and letting her know that others have the same doubts about their abilities gave her the confidence to try instead of give up.

"She was having a lot of trouble with math and we worked very hard on an assignment," Lakey said. "We had to stop several times because she got so frustrated, but when I started to leave that day, she said, ‘I thought I couldn’t do it,’ but she had learned that she could."

Lakey said her little sister is looking toward the future with optimism.

"She is making plans and setting goals," she said. "That makes me proud."

And, Tuck is just as proud of the young man who is his little brother, although he’s not so little.

Tuck is the ideal brother for a 15-year-old sports enthusiast.

Sports is the common denominator for the big brother

and little brother.

"We both like sports and that makes it easy for us to relate to each other," Tuck said. "We spend time shooting hoops

and talking basketball, but we also spend a lot of time working on academics. I want him to realize how important it is to do good in academic subjects – not just be good in sports."

Tuck said the rewards of hitting the books hard may not be as immediate as hitting a three-point shot, but he believes it won’t be long before his little brother is seeing the rewards of studying and working hard in the classroom and on homework assignments.

Homework pays off in the classroom and that’s what Tuck hopes to convey to the young man he had befriended.

All three "bigs" said it’s impossible to be a "big brother" or "big sister" and not be enriched by the experience.

They have given of their time, but have gotten something more important in return – "the opportunity to see the positive change a friend can make in the life of another."

The Big Brothers Big Sisters organization is an opportunity to share one’s talents and time with a child who needs a friend.

"Some of the children in the program are from homes where, for some reason, the parent or parents don’t have a lot of time to spend with them – doing homework, going places or just being together," Lakey said.

Big Brothers Big Sisters matches "bigs" with "littles" according to their interests and needs. Big brother and sisters may volunteer an hour a week or as many hours has they wish.

"But, you won’t find anything more worthwhile than the time you share with a child," the brothers and sister said.

Big Brothers Big Sisters has 11 big/little pairs, but more than 30 other children are looking for a match. These children are referred to the organization by school administrators, the Department of Human Resources and churches.

Anyone who has a place in his or her heart for one little child is encouraged to become a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

For more information, call 670-5687 or 670-3387.