Happy 2015! We hope you had a sweet time celebrating Christmas & New Year’s with your loved ones. With another little one running around our house, the holidays brought lots of entertainment & fun. I don’t know about you but 2014 certainly felt like a time warp for our family!
It’s our privilege to bring you this Non-Profit Spotlight featuring organizations that provide health care, therapy, counseling, shelter for children & families, cultural arts, education & more. If you’re looking for a new year’s resolution that makes a lasting impact, check out these amazing non-profit agencies starting on page 7 with the spotlight feature on pages 36-43 to learn how you can make a difference. We think Albert Einstein said it well, “only a life lived in the service to others is worth living.”
We’re also delighted to share a cover story with you from Big Brothers Big Sisters that brings hope & encouragement for the new year. And who doesn’t need that? Thank you, Nicholas & Andrew, for giving us a glimpse into your lives.
All the best for 2015!
Happy January, National Mentoring Month! A great time to learn about Big Brothers Big Sisters, the oldest and largest youth mentoring organization in the country. Since 1993, BBBS has had a presence in Northwest Arkansas, forming over 1,700 mentoring matches in Washington and Benton counties. These one-to-one mentoring relationships between caring adults (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”) have documented positive outcomes for the children. Survey results show that Littles who have been matched for 12 months or longer have improved school attendance, healthier peer relationships, improved ability to avoid fights and use physical violence, and enhanced self-confidence and outlook for their future.
In order to qualify to be a Little, the child must either live below the poverty level, have a parent in jail, or come from a single parent home, and often a child qualifies on all three accounts. In Northwest Arkansas, there is a huge need for more adults to volunteer as Bigs and the funding it takes to facilitate the recruitment, match and follow-up process. As child safety is a primary concern, there is structured protocol that all chapters follow regarding the recruitment and interviews of the Bigs, the Littles and their families; the matching process; and then the ongoing monitoring by the program staff. It costs about $1,000 to set-up and monitor a match for one year, and the values the Little can learn may keep them in school, off drugs and out of jail. Here is just one of the many success stories.
Nicholas and Andrew were matched in December 2012 when Nicholas was 8 years old and in third grade. Nicholas lives with his mother Layce and two brothers, Michael who is 2 years older, and a younger brother who was then 11 months old. Nicholas’ father is frequently incarcerated. At the time, Layce was looking for a male role model for Nicholas who could encourage him academically, help increase his self confidence, and help him learn how to cope with a big brother who rarely wanted to play with him. Layce also felt that Nicholas was a little shy and she wanted him to open up more. Like many boys his age, Nicholas spent a great deal of time playing video games. When asked about why he might want a Big Brother, Nicholas responded that it would give him someone to stay at home with and play video games with.
Enter Andrew Arkell, a 24 year old University of Arkansas graduate from New Hampshire. Looking to give back to the community, Andrew decided to become a Big Brother after reading about another Big’s successful experience. Following the match, Andrew and Nicholas began meeting 2 or 3 times a month, going to the Gentry Zoo, bowling, the movies, Terra Studios, the library and park. Andrew quickly discovered that he was having a lot of fun seeing the world through the eyes of an 8 year old boy, and that it beat being always in the adult work world! Andrew intentionally balances their expeditions between indoor sedate ones, such as drawing comics and playing video games, with outside activities such as sports play or exploring a new place. Andrew was delighted when Nicholas exclaimed that roller skating was better than his favorite video game!
Nicholas lit up when asked about spending time with Andrew, explaining that Andrew has taught him a lot of different things including drawing a dinosaur, but also how to calm himself when in a disagreement with his big brother (“Go away and count to 10, and if it’s really that bad, count to 100!”) Nicholas and Andrew frequently discuss schoolwork and making friends, and Nicholas knows he can rely on Andrew to help him figure out how to solve problems. Nicholas said that Andrew is “kinda like family” and that Andrew has shown him stuff that he didn’t even know about. Nicholas thinks that based on what he learned from Andrew, he is now a better big brother to his little 3 year-old sibling and can teach him lots of things too.
Andrew is also pleased with Nicholas’ positive attitude on their activities and life in general, remarking that “No matter what we’re doing, we’ll have a great time, and Nicholas has learned that if we can’t always do everything he wants, we can do something else that will be fun.” He has seen growth in Nicholas over the last two years; Nicholas has grown in self-confidence so that he is more likely now to offer an opinion and socialize, and is always ready to try something new. Sadly, their time together is coming to an end as Andrew is moving to Chicago in May 2015. The two plan to stay in touch through letters and calls, and both intend to rematch in the hopes of finding another very successful relationship.
To learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters,
please call 966.4366 or visit our website www.bbbsnwa.org.