Consistency A Key Ingredient
Big Brothers Big Sisters Help Fill Voids In Family Relationships
Posted: February 19, 2013
Felicia Kimble (right) and her “little,’’ Tiffany, 10, of Harrisonburg, ice and decorate cupcakes on Wednesday night. They were matched in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program four years ago. (Photos by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
The two “sisters” joke around while baking.
“When we first started cooking together, [she] wouldn’t touch anything,” said Felicia Kimble, 23, of Harrisonburg.
When the two were matched by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County four years ago, Tiffany was just 6 and Kimble a sophomore at James Madison University.
Now, Kimble teaches at Spotswood Elementary in Harrisonburg where Tiffany goes to school.
Tiffany was held back in first grade because she had trouble with writing and reading, so they spent a lot of time on schoolwork early in their match.
But Kimble said they refocused their relationship to be more social after about a year.
“I felt like the point of [the program] was hanging out,” Kimble said, but added that she still helps with Tiffany’s schoolwork when needed.
Tiffany holds the cake-mix box in her hands, studying the print, and Kimble asks how much water they need.
“She can pretty much look at the recipe and tell me what to do,” Kimble said.
Through their time together, the pair have grown close and refer to each other as sisters. Tiffany spends time with Kimble’s family and was even a junior bridesmaid in her wedding.
“She jokes that we’re going to be best friends until we die,” Kimble said.
She said she signed up as a “big” because of the impact it had on her younger brother.
“He never really had a male role model in his life,” said Kimble, whose father died when her brother was 7. “I saw how much my brother enjoyed spending time with [his ‘big’].”
She explained that “littles” like her brother and Tiffany have benefited by the consistency and reliability that a “big” provides.
“That’s personally my biggest focus,” she said. “I always make sure that if I make plans with her, I always keep those.”
“Consistency, absolutely is a huge part of what we ask for,” said Cara Hopson, communications specialist for the local BBBS.
The area organization is involved with a national program, Reunite Now, the goal of which is to bring Big Brothers Big Sisters alumni back to the program, and Hopson said that being a “big” is not the only way to participate.
“There are so many ways that people can get involved with us,” she said.
People can support the nonprofit youth organization financially, invite BBBS representatives to speak to civic groups or host a match event at a business.
Past match events, which give “bigs” and “littles” low- to no-cost entertainment, have included sporting events, movie nights and ice-skating.
Participants and donors also are needed for BBBS’ annual fundraiser, Bowl For Kids’ Sake, on March 16 at Valley Lanes in Harrisonburg.
Still, the group cannot function without “bigs,” who can participate through the school-based program, which requires meeting once a week during the student’s lunch or recess, or the community-based program, which usually requires two to three hours per week.
With one volunteer per student, 752 students were mentored in 2012. College students comprise 75 percent of the local chapter’s volunteers.
“[But] we would always like to grow our population of community members who are volunteers,” Hopson said.
BBBS has a particular need for male volunteers.
“We currently have 150 kids on our waiting list and a majority of them are always male,” Hopson said. “Males wait longer to be matched.”
Tristian Jackson, a Harrisonburg police officer, is waiting to meet his new “little.” Jackson’s ties to the program began when he was 11 growing up in Carrboro, N.C.
Jackson, 30, and his brother were raised by a single mother, who didn’t always have enough time to discipline him sufficiently, he said.
Jackson was slipping through the cracks at school, he said, before he was matched with a mentor through BBBS.
“There was a lot of empty space where I could manipulate the adults around me,” Jackson said. “He gave me an environment where it was very hard to lie.”
Jackson’s “big” and his wife provided the check and the support the boy needed.
“For them, I don’t think they saw the fruits of their influence until I became an adult, until a couple of years ago,” he said, adding that their relationship continues to this day.
About four years ago, he became a mentor for the first time after moving to the Valley. His “little” has since moved out of the area.
“It’s about being there, taking that time, the consistency to influence someone’s life for the better,” Jackson said.
He encouraged other men to sign up, assuring them they don’t have to be perfect and that the match helped him grow as a man.
“You may not be the best player, but your skill set may be the difference between winning and losing,” Jackson said.
Contact Alex Rohr at 574-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org