‘These Kids Bless You’

BBBS’ National Leader Puts Charity In Perspective At Local Breakfast

Posted: May 9, 2013

Charles Pierson, president and chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, addresses the annual breakfast of the BBBS of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County on Wednesday. The fundraiser’s keynoter reminded his audience that relationships, rather than things, are what matters in life. (Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
HARRISONBURG — T. Charles Pierson, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America president and chief executive officer, admits there was a time he was a little bit too preoccupied with his truck.

So, when the “little brother” he was paired with through BBBS scratched “wash me” with a stick into his paint job, he was less than thrilled. But Pierson looks back at the test of patience as a valuable lesson.

“It was a reminder to me that a truck really doesn’t mean a whole lot. …  My relationship with him does,” he told a crowd at the James Madison University Festival Conference and Student Center Wednesday during a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County breakfast.

Pierson, who has been a big brother for 21 years, contends that the organization is changing “lives for the better, forever” for mentors as much as “mentees.”

“These kids bless you over and over again,” said Pierson, who was the keynote speaker at Wednesday’s second annual fundraising breakfast, which sought pledges from nearly 200 attendees.
The nonprofit organization pairs area youth, called “littles,” with older mentors, called “bigs,” who serve as role models.

At the two breakfasts, donors have pledged to give $111,000 to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County over the next five years.

“I think the event exceeded my expectations,” said Sue Totty, executive director of the local chapter. “Hopefully, everyone left feeling really good about partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters, either as a donor or as a big brother or big sister themselves.”

During the breakfast, attendees heard stories of personal successes with the program.

One story of triumph came from North Carolina native Tristian Jackson, a Harrisonburg Police Department officer who became involved with the program as an 11-year-old. Jackson shared how a couple “willed something different” for him, inspiring him to be the best he could be.

Jackson’s mother worked hard to support her two children on what Jackson said was sometimes less than $5,000 a year, and it was the couple who helped put him through military school. He now serves as a big brother.

“I wish to continue this motion of change,” he said.

The local BBBS chapter, which has a $538,000 operating budget for 2013, serves more than 700 kids annually, making it the largest chapter in Virginia, according to officials. In its 37-year history, the organization has helped more than 10,000 children.

Officials emphasized that donations would allow the club to take on even more littles.

“Any support you give is a true investment,” said Todd Gardner, a board member for the local chapter. “There are still hundreds of kids who could benefit from our services.”

Contact Emily Sharrer at 574-6286 or esharrer@dnronline.com

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