A ribbon cutting celebration was held at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the North Park Professional Building, 1603 N. Detroit St., Warsaw. The offices will be located in the lower level of the building.
Helping to celebrate the opening were board members, ambassadors, Big Brothers, Little Brothers and those on the waiting list.
Having a place to call home in the county, according to Lindsey Best, community development coordinator, “will allow us to do a lot of growing and some really cool things.”
Josette Rider, executive director, provided the history of the organization, which was started by the same individual, Don Wolf, who started Do-It-Best Hardware. Wolf, himself, lost his parents at a young age, raised himself, graduated from high school with one pair of jeans and two shirts, worked in a factory before and after school and started out as a stock boy in a hardware store in New Haven.
“I’m so happy to say that Kosciusko County is one of those agencies that he helped grow,” Rider noted. “We used to have an office but in lean times, we couldn’t support that. Last year we had just over 200 matches again in Kosciusko County, the second largest (match wise) in all 13 counties that we serve. That says something about you guys, this is so exciting to see an office open back up.”
Best stressed the importance of continuing to build the partnership with local community people. “We believe this 200 matches this year will continue to grow because our obligation to continue to do a better job of partnership, to do a better job at letting people know what we are doing. We can’t do it without you.”
Sam Pamer, a fifth grader who has been matched with a Big Brother for the
past eight months, spoke on his experience. His brother, Henderson, continues to wait for a match.
Sam noted some of the activities he and his “Big” do together — fishing, playing basketball, hanging out. He added, “It doesn’t matter what we do … John is the greatest Big Brother I ever had and hope to hang out with him again.”
Henderson, 12, noted he wants a Big Brother to play football with, someone to hang out with and someone who loves to be active and just have fun. He added that he wants someone who doesn’t get mad and quits, but “just wants to have fun.”
Dr. Tom Edington, superintendent at Wawasee Community Schools and a Big
Brother himself, shared information from two sides of the coin. He provided statistics of the county’s drop-out rate and the efforts of schools in the county to increase that rate, which has, and the difference a one on one relationship between a mentor and student in performance and attendance. He also noted that since the economic downtown the percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunches has grown from 20 percent to 50 percent with many from non-traditional families. The number of non traditional families is also increasing.
He encourages staff and community in the WCSC to become involved with the lunch buddies program. He spoke of how his relationship with his “Little” has blossomed in the five years and their relationship has grown. He noted that while he hopes he has helped him, the help has been reciprocal. “You give, but end up receiving so much,” Edington stated.
Diane Quance, Warsaw councilwoman, was one of the founding board members for the program in the county in 1986. She spoke of how kids with mentors are more likely to receive a college degree, to have a higher income and become involved in their community later on in life, to give back.
“Little’s grow into Bigs,” she said, noting many are waiting for matches and challenged individuals to step up. “You get more out of the time spent with your Little than the Little does,” she stated.
Quance challenged in conclusion, “Will you now step up and make a difference in a child’s life?”
Sherri Milton, a BB/BS ambassador, concluded the pre-ribbon cutting ceremony
stating that matches have grown over 50 percent in the last three years, but there are still 44 Littles on the waiting list – boys and girls who are waiting for volunteers for matches to be made with over 100 kids documented waiting to make it on the waiting list.
She noted she asked a teacher once if given a choice between $100,000 to purchase classroom supplies or mentors in the class, which would he/she take. “The teacher said ‘I would want the mentors,’ because she understood what the difference an hour makes in the Little’s life. Sometimes you don’t think you’re making a difference but you do. That’s the impact these programs can have.”
The local office will be open noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more
information about volunteering to become a Big Brother or Sister call (888)
456-1600 or visit www.bbbsnei.org.