Mentors make magic

by Caroline Turney

If there’s one thing Americans have grown accustomed to, it is getting what we want when we want it. Most of us expect our Internet servers to work at lightning speed, our channel surfing to flash by in a blink, and our food to be hot and ready 60 seconds after we order it.

No matter what we’re after, we want it quickly. Just try paying with a check the next time you are in the grocery line and casually glance back at the pained looks on the faces of those behind you wishing that you would have just swiped your card and moved on.

Imagine having to wait up to two years for something much more important than a cheeseburger. That’s exactly what youngsters on the Comal/Guadalupe Big Brother Big Sister waiting list have been doing. So many kids need mentors that they can wait up to two years for a Big Brother or Big Sister. Comal/Guadalupe County Branch Coordinator Shannon Dixon said, “We have kids on our waiting list, mostly Little Brothers, who can wait two years for a mentor and sometimes they can get a little bit disheartened.”

To encourage them as they pass the time, the Comal/Guadalupe County branch has developed a new program entitled, “Magic While You Wait.” The program was funded by a grant through the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio to facilitate health and well being.

Earlier this month, kids on the Comal/Guadalupe branch waiting list had their first magical experience as the program kicked off with a pizza and bowling party on Dec. 2. Volunteers from The Home Depot Supply New Braunfels Contact Center spent a few hours out of their Saturday to help make the magic happen. They acted as one-day mentors.

Home Depot Supply Customer Care Supervisor Celeste Torres said her team is looking forward to working with BBBS again. “I have people who want to do it again and new people that want to be involved in the next event. They had so much fun and we were grateful for the opportunity to meet the Littles [Little Brothers and Little Sisters].”

Future events will have a similar format. “It’s usually held on Saturdays for two or three hours where community organizations or businesses who want to volunteer their time can have employees or group members matched for one day, and that’s all that it is,” Dixon said. For business or organizations who are considering volunteering Torres said, “This is a wonderful opportunity to give back to the community with volunteer hours instead of asking for funds. Our associates really enjoyed the kids and the activity—a true win/win situation for all.”

Any interested group is welcome to volunteer for a day. Dixon explained, “We’re looking for companies and others who want to be involved in 2007 – it can be a rotary group or a church group. All they have or do is want to come out and spend a day with a kid and have a good time.”

Interested parties are invited to stop by the branch office, call (210) 316-2596, or visit the web at www.Bigmentor.org to find out more. The Comal/Guadalupe branch is located in the New Braunfels Scooter Store building. Office space was donated through Scooter Store President Mike Pfister who is involved with the organization.

Because safety is a primary concern for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, all activities with one-day mentors are 100% supervised and structured.

During short-term mentor opportunities, some volunteers may find they have the right stuff to be a long-term Big Brother or Big Sister. Torres recalled seeing a one-day mentor who realized that he was interested in a longer commitment after participating in the bowling party.

“ I saw the perfect match,” she said. “Both of them leaning to the side, hats on, grinning from ear to ear with matching freckles. By the end of the event Charles was hooked, and he wanted to be a permanent Big Brother.”

Long term mentors go through an application process consisting of several steps. First, they undergo a background check. Then, the applicants participate in a one-on-one interview. Last, the volunteers wait for approval until the organization has conferred with several references who have known the applicant for more than one year.

Marital status is not a factor in determining qualification. According to Dixon, the only requirements are the application process and a willingness to have fun. The group of volunteers for the Comal/Guadalupe branch is diverse ranging from high school students to senior citizens. “We have a 63 year old volunteer matched with a 7 year old boy who came home the other day and told his mother that his mentor wore him out,” Dixon said.

Jed Arnold of Bulverde has been a Big Brother since 2002. He and Little Brother Chase have been matched since 2004. Arnold says the two of them have enjoyed going to the river, shooting fireworks, flying Styrofoam airplanes, playing video games and basketball, eating sushi and other activities. In spite of the variety of activities they have enjoyed, Arnold says that the important thing, “is not having a knockout activity, but taking the time to find something that Chase hopefully enjoys and is out of the typical weekly routine.”

Arnold has found being a Big Brother to be a rewarding investment. He said, “The greatest thing about being a Big [Brother] is watching your Little assume that they can do things that they never would have done before. It is very rewarding to watch them gain levels of self-confidence and self-realization that they never knew before. It changes from, ‘Maybe I can do X’ to, ‘Of course I can do X, it’s not a problem.’ ”



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