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Monday, February 6, 2023

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Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring Relationships are Changing Lives

by Susan Larson

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Sally Cooney Anderson was at first uncertain about the match made for her “Little Brother.”

“I did not think I would do well being matched with a boy, because I am truly a “girly girl!” Sally said. “Cynthia, my match support at Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters (RBBBS) was convinced Chima and I would be great together, so I trusted her.”

Sally discovered from the very beginning that Cynthia was right.

Big Sister Sally and Little Brother Chima have built a close relationship over the course of seven years, beginning when Chima was in fifth grade. “They began meeting at the elementary school and, as Chima graduated to middle and high school, they moved their visits to the community, where they have the opportunity to participate in many learning-focused activities,” said RBBBS executive director Michelle Hedrich.

“Whatever they do, whether it is a trip to the state fair, or lunch at the local diner, Sally manages to slip-in the one question that highlights the importance of life — So, what did you learn today? She is an amazing ‘Big Sister’ to Chima, and Chima is the perfect ‘Little Brother’ for Sally.

“Chima does not participate in many extra curricular activities at school, so I am always looking for activities that enable him to engage with others his age,” Sally said. “Open Hand was highly recommended, and I felt Chima was at an age when he should have a summer activity. I liked the program’s emphasis on life skills, citizenship and positive behavior.”

Open Hand of Fredericksburg offered an employment readiness program for teens. The weekly sessions included instruction on dressing appropriately, building a resume, preparing for a job interview and managing finances. Staff arranged paid internships for participants.

“I tried to stay in the background — hard for me — and I did take advantage of several opportunities to assist, such as providing lunch, helping with a few programs and transportation,” Sally said.

“The program was terrific, and perfect for Chima. I will always remember the look on his face when he got his first paycheck. Chima now has a part-time weekend job, and I am convinced that the skills he learned at Open Hand and the experience of working gave him the confidence of knowing he could be hired to work and do a good job.”

“There are too many children in our area who are dropping out of high school, raising babies as single parents and limiting their futures. RBBBS offers an additional adult perspective, and the mentoring relationships they create often change the lives of these children by having them (and their families) see that there are other options.

“Many would think that the mentor is the primary contributor, but I think those who mentor would agree that we receive more than we give. Chima has changed my life in many ways, and I am a better person for it!”

Big Brothers Big Sisters helps children in need of an encouraging role model by providing one-to-one mentoring services that are proven to change their lives for the better. For more information about being a mentor, please contact Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters at www.rbbbs.org or call 540-371-7444.

For more information about Open Hand of Fredericksburg, contact them at www.openhand-fred.org or call 540-834-4455.

 

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