Family by Choice | Big Brothers Big Sisters

May 20, 2019 11:30 am Published by

Terence Doctor shuffles a basketball from hand to hand as he tells me about volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters.  He’s been a Big for four years to the same Little –  James – who’s a celebrity here at Dupont Elementary.  As James makes his way down the hall to us, just about everyone gives him a fist bump or a, “Hi, James! How’s it going?”  He’s popular with students and teachers alike.

Terence Doctor has volunteered as a Big Brother in Hopewell for the last four years.

“James is a cool dude; he has so much confidence.  In the beginning, we talked a lot about sports and music and stuff. But, now we have deeper conversations, and he has really started opening up to me. That’s how I know I am having an impact,” Terence says.  Through his mentorship, he has seen James become more relaxed and carefree, as well as more comfortable speaking about whatever problems he’s having.  “We only meet once a week, but the impact on James is real.”

I followed Terence and James outside to the basketball court where they were greeted by several other kids.  It was clear that the presence of a Big brought more positive energy to the playground.  So, Terence wasn’t just having an impact on James, but on some of the other kids, as well.  For Terence, having an impact is what Big Brothers Big Sisters is all about.  He has a love for community and wants to give something back to Hopewell.  He not only mentors with Big Brothers Big Sisters, but he also works with the Hopewell Youth Services Commission.  I asked him if he recommended being a Big.  He shot back, “Highly recommended.”

Terence’s Little shoots a jump shot on the blacktop at Dupont Elementary School in Hopewell.  They go outside nearly every week for their time together.

I head back inside to see another Big – Tammy McCollum.  Sitting by a big window pouring in soft, spring light, she and her Little, Jayla, are working on a craft.  Tammy is newer to the program and has been a Big for about a year.  With four grown children and an empty nest, she felt that her love for children could be put to good use serving kids in need.  Today, she and Jayla are working on an Easter craft.  They carefully lay out materials to make an Easter treat bag shaped like a bunny.  “Commitment is key,” says Tammy.  “We meet once a week, and it’s really important to show up. A lot of these children may not have commitment or consistency at home, so, it’s crucial that we provide that.”

Tammy McCollum, Administrative Associate at John Randolph Foundation, has been a Big Sister for almost a year.  She and her Little, Jayla, plan different crafts to do each week.

Stability is a large part of the impact these mentors have.  When I asked Tammy how she defines success with her Little, she tells me, “When I arrive and we make that initial eye contact and her eyes light up.  We make a real difference in each other’s lives.  Being consistent allows her to feel comfortable and open up to me and share her struggles.  Spending time with her also allows me to see things from a younger perspective, which is great!”  Watching these pairs gave me a sense of peace.  Both Littles seemed so relaxed and stress-free with their Bigs, and you could tell that they shared a bond with each other.

With the help of volunteers like Terence and Tammy, and funding from organizations like John Randolph Foundation, youth in our community are getting the love and support they don’t always get at home but desperately need.  And that’s what it’s all about for John Randolph Foundation.  JRF has supported Big Brothers Big Sisters for 14 years, helping them expand to all three Hopewell elementary schools.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is always looking for more Bigs – they need 25 more Bigs at Harry E. James Elementary, Dupont Elementary, and Patrick Copeland Elementary combined.  So, take Terence’s word for it, and reach out to Big Brothers Big Sisters today to see if mentoring is right for you.  You, too, can have an impact.

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This post was written by AJ James

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