September 19, 2019

Big Brothers Big Sisters Mountain Region Says, “I Know Jo, Do You?”

By Jo Mixon

Since 1904, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been changing children’s lives by matching them with caring adults to help guide them on a path to success. Last week I met with two amazing ladies. Both are Big Sisters in the Big Brother Big Sister program here in Angel Fire. One is in the School Based program the other is in the Community based program.

For the first visit, I went to the Elementary School to meet Grace Ann and her “little”. This program encourages contact only at school. The participating Big Brother or Big Sister meets with their little during lunch, at recess and/or during library time, usually once a week. Grace Ann is a retired teacher whose children are grown and she was missing that contact in her life. She decided to join Big Brothers, Big Sisters. About a year ago, she was paired with her adorable “little sister” who is in the sixth (almost seventh) grade. I was excited that we had obtained permission for me to meet with them from the Grandmother with whom her little sister lives. Grace Ann says she is very impressed with the organization and how extremely vetted the “bigs” are, prior to being assigned a “little”. On this given day, she was taking Kentucky Fried Chicken for them to share at lunch.

I asked her little what her perspective is of the program. She said, “At first I didn’t want to do it but my Aunt had been a big sister and she and my Grandmother explained it to me, so I agreed to try it. She (pointing to Graceann) has been my big sister ever since.” Then I asked her what she enjoyed about having a big sister. She said, “She brings me fried chicken and other things I like for lunch. We have fun together. We play games after we have lunch. It is like having another grandmother. She asks about my day and cares about me. She tutors me in math, she was a math teacher!” Then she laughed. I could tell by their interaction, both were receiving joy from this arrangement.

Finally I asked if she thought others would benefit from having a big brother or big sister and she said, “I feel like for the kids who have no mom or dad in their life, they should all have a big brother or big sister to comfort them like I do. It would make them feel better.”

Next is with Bobbie Jean and her little. They are in the Community based program, but started out in the school based program. This is the story as given to me from Bobbie Jean:

“Before joining Big Brothers Big Sisters, I had heard a lot about it from my late friend Don Welker. We use to ride horses together several times a week & he was very passionate about bringing the program to Angel Fire. I used the excuse in the beginning that I never had the time. Being a service business owner I did not have a stable schedule. What if I disappoint my “little”? I had all kinds of excuses! Long story short, after Don’s passing, I signed up. I thought what the heck?!

The process of being matched was painless & fun even. I was amazed at how thorough they are. When I was contacted by Oralia (in the Taos office) for an interview, I suggested she come to my house. It was a great meeting. She fingerprinted me and explained the extensive background check they did for the protection of the children being matched. Wow! I told her my insecurities with being a big sister and that I was scared. She made it sound so easy! One of the things she told me that I think helped me, was explaining what my job was as big sister and what it was not. I was NOT a babysitter, taxi driver, bank, etc. I was a friend. Someone my little could talk to and have fun with.

The next meeting was at school where I met my beautiful little sister. She was as shy as I was! There are two kinds of programs in the Big Brother Big Sister system: School based, where you see your little during school hours only. And community based, where you also have more interaction with the parents, because you can see your little anytime. My little and I started out in the school based program. I had lunch with her at school. Eventually I was also seeing her during library time and recess. We became very popular. A lot of the children wanted a “big” too! In fact, there is a waiting list for “bigs”, especially men!

My little and I have been sisters for over two years now. We have moved to a community based match so we have all sorts of adventures. When we can’t spend time together, we text or talk on the phone. We have been on hikes, skiing, to the movies, bowling, etc. Sometimes it has just been a 30 minute trip to the store after school for a snack while we were waiting for her mom to get off of work.

Most of us have busy lives, but we all find the time to do what we feel is important. I feel that is important to be there for our young people. I would encourage someone that has questions about this program to meet with Oralia. Or go to the website and look at some of the stories. I had always wanted a big sister when I was growing up. I didn’t have a sister because my big sister died when I was very young. I am now the big sister to someone who dreamed of having a big sister too. It’s so easy! If being a big isn’t something that you would like to do, then consider supporting in another way such as donating financially, volunteering or serving as a board member. I also now serve on the Big Brother Big Sister board.”

There are more children, many more than you would image on the waiting list here in the Valley. If you could spare an hour or two a week to join this program and give a child a friend, please consider being a Big! Invest in a child.

Big Brothers Big Sisters Mountain Region

Hello, my name is Karen Koyote and I am the Regional Director for Big Brother’s Big Sister’s Mountain Region/Taos and Colfax counties. Big Brother’s Big Sister’s is the oldest mentoring organization in the United States and we have been active in the Colfax area for approximately four years.

As you are probably aware of we have many youth in our community that are facing challenging circumstances. Research has shown that long term one-to-one mentoring has a positive effect on youth. Behavior issues go down, school attendance goes up and overall they have more positive outlooks toward adults and improve socially.

In Big Brother’s Big Sister’s we have 2 types of mentoring programs. We have a School Based Program and a Community Based Program. In the School Based Program the volunteers, whom we call “Bigs” Meet with the youth “Littles” at the school for about an hour a week. Usually they meet at lunch time or some other time of the day when they can interact. They can also spend time with them in the library reading together, playing on the playground or possibly going into the classroom if the teacher is agreeable with that.

In the Community Based Program the matches meet in the community 2-4 times a month. They can go on hikes, do arts and crafts, go to the movies, and shoot hoops or whatever else they enjoy doing together.

Right now we have 11 matches in Colfax County and we are hoping to increase this number by 12 this year.

We are a volunteer and donation supported organization. The funds that we raise go towards supporting the mentoring matches. It costs about $1,250.00 to support one match for one year. The costs include the fingerprinting and background check for the volunteers and the ongoing support that is provided by our Program Specialist. She checks in with the volunteers every month to make sure everything is going well and discusses any needs they might have.

Right now we have a fundraiser going on called Bowl for Kid’s Sake. We do this every year about this time and what it consists of is peer-to peer fundraising, combined with business sponsorships. As the name implies it has a bowling theme. If a person wishes to have a team they get 3 other friends r co-workers together and they sign up on the website to get started. They then collectively raise a minimum of $400.00 per team ($100.00 each) to go towards the program.

If someone is interested in doing a team I would recommend they sign up soon to have time to raise the funds and to secure a spot in one of the sessions.

The event is a celebration of the work that everyone has done to make the fundraising a success. It will be held at two locations this year. The Angel Fire resort will host the event in Angel Fire with sessions at 5:00 and possibly 6:00. On April 8, 2017 the event will be held at the KTAOS Solar Center Pavilion at 5:00, 6:00 and 7:00 pm. We set up TV screens and do a Wii Bowling version as we don’t have a bowling alley here (yet). We are hoping to get as many of the local matches involved as we can by providing them teams that are paid for so they can more easily participate.

If you would like to help with this cause you can donate any amount to the teams.

Other ways an individual or business can help is by providing prize or raffle items to the event.

We are also always in need of adult volunteers who may be interested in becoming mentors or in businesses that can provide discounts to the matches for activities.

If you are interested in donating you can contact one of our Angel Fire board members, Debbie Welker at 505-428-8023 or myself at 575-770-5751

I hope that this information is helpful. You can contact me with questions, ideas or just to chat. Thanks again and I hope you have a great day!

Karen Koyote