Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” could be heard pouring into the lobby of Eugene’s Hilton Hotel on Wednesday morning as Big Brother “Little”, Jordin, and his “Big”, Ben Sappington rolled up to the main stage on a motorized golf cart.
Jordin took the stage in a white tuxedo, Ben, following behind. With confidence typically reserved for adults, 12-year-old Jordin stepped up to the microphone and delivered a speech highlighting exactly how drastic of an effect being able to have a mentor through Big Brothers/Big Sisters has had on his life. One of Jordin and Ben’s favorite activities to participate in together is golfing. From the audience, one could observe the positive relationship that had developed between the two, and one could sense the confidence Jordin gained from having a mentor. Ben Sappington is not only a volunteer mentor for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, but also a member of their board as well as an employee within the Chamber of Commerce.
While 40 tables full of philanthropic attendees enjoyed a delicious breakfast, a slideshow played on two large screens. Flashing by were photos of several pairings of mentors and youth smiling as they enjoyed a wide range of activities together.
Francesca MacCormack, Associate Director of Services, spoke with EDN about BBBS. She said this benefit was to raise funds for the upcoming year. Plans for the year include “providing scholarships for extra-curricular opportunities to youth in our programs, an expansion involving reaching youth in Junction City, as well as services to assist older youth in transitioning successfully into independent living situations.” MacCormack said that the organization was anticipating approximately $1500 to come from each table at the event. “We are expecting 100% of those in attendance to either donate or mentor.” MacCormack stated that she believes it is “our obligation as adults to support the future generations in our community through helping them to achieve their own goals.”. She added that one of the things she would really like to see change for BBBS is to have an increase in community support and involvement.
Currently the Downtown Athletic Club, YMCA, and Chipolte are community businesses providing free or discounted services to mentor/youth pairs. “It would be great to see an increase in support from the arts community as well as the U of O”.
Sari Pascoe, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lane County, addressed the gathering. Pascoe drew attention to the organization’s continuing goal of creating 250 mentor pairs per year, with 100 being formed by summer this year. She noted the organizations “ability to thrive in the face of adversity”, crediting generous donations still being made, especially in light of the economic recession. She stated the importance of the work she and her organization accomplish, “we are shaping the next steps of our neighborhoods and community.”.
19-year-old Jacob Haynes, and his Big Brother, Paul Berger, then took the stage, as Jacob gave testimony to the critical impact his mentor has had in changing his life for the better. Jacob’s life situation found him bouncing in and out of foster care homes and facilities throughout his adolescence, until his behavior hit a point his foster care givers could no longer handle, and he was admitted to the Stepping Stone program. In an environment providing stability and structure, Jacob started to find his footing. It was soon after that he was paired with his mentor, Paul Berger.
Jacob stated that through his relationship with Paul he has learned several valuable life lessons, that he may not have learned otherwise. For instance, he has learned that he’s not stupid, that he is worthy of love and respect. He also highlighted some of the accomplishments in his own life that he indicated may not have been possible without a positive mentor; he graduated from high school a year early, is applying at LCC, has a job (and continues to look for promotion or better work elsewhere), and has developed social skills and learned to network. Jacob is a self-proclaimed “highly motivated individual”. He is also training to run a marathon.
BBBS Board Member, Dean Hansen of Pacific Continental Bank, closed the breakfast out by encouraging those present to be generous with their donations of money and time to this worthy cause, “It makes economic sense to give [financial] support to this organization”, “your dollars are preventing crime and poverty, creating empowered citizens, and developing leaders for tomorrow.”
Mentor Pairing services in Lane County originally began with the formation of Committed Partners for Youth in 1991. Local Psychologist and single parent, Llew Albrecht, saw the need for this type of service for at-risk youth in Lane County. She set to work putting her ‘prevention rather than intervention’ approach to work for local at-risk youth. It was in 2009, when the CPY merged together with Big Brothers Big Sisters to compose the organization as it now stands.
Molly O’Connor, a senior at the University of Oregon, majoring in Biology, started mentoring her little, Molly Ann, this past spring. She spoke to EDN about her experience; “It’s rewarding seeing how our relationship has progressed – she went from being shy the first few weeks, to showing appreciation for what our relationship has grown to – she called me her best friend a couple of weeks ago”. O’Connor also said she enjoys working with the staff at BBBS, that they are “helpful, kind people – so willing to help these kids”. Molly said that she did face a minor challenge of not being available to meet with her little for the span of a month while she was out of the country in Ecuador, but stated that Molly Ann was flexible and understanding about it.
Francesca left me with these words to encourage those with reservations about mentoring, “You don’t need to have your life figured out to be a positive influence in the life of a youth.”
Story and Photos by Elisha Shumaker, EDN