Having a role model to look up to can make a huge difference in a child's life. There's an organization that offers just that to kids in the Lehigh Valley and that organization is looking for help from volunteers.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is a one to one mentoring organization that pairs high school, college and adult "bigs" with children ages 6-14. The big brothers and big sisters meet with their little brothers and little sisters on a weekly basis to do different activities.
"Kids are improving their self confidence, their grades go up," said Susan Bartels, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lehigh Valley. "What they see for themselves improves, so they see themselves going to college, they see themselves graduating from college where before they were involved in the program they didn't even see it as a reality."
Bartels added, "We see that they are less likely to get involved in drugs and alcohol than if they were not matched in our program."
Jason Hall is a big brother to 12-year-old Gage Dannecker. Hall himself was a little brother in the program and now he wants to give back as an adult.
"Now looking back I realized that that man didn't have to do that, there was no reason, there was no obligation for him to do it and he just did it out of the kindness of his heart and it feels like it's an obligation to give it back," said Hall.
He and his little brother have become great buddies.
Hall said, "He knows that somebody's there, he can call me any time, he can share whatever he wants with me as a male role model."
"He helps me with my school work and he teaches me some lessons," said Dannecker, who is legally blind. "On New Year's Eve he took me bowling with his family and friends."
Many of the children involved in the program come from single-parent homes, which is the case for Dannecker, who lives with his mother.
"He's a very good man. He spends time with me and he respects me and I very respect him," said Dannecker.
It's not just the kids who get something out of the program, though.
"I didn't realize what kind of blessing it would actually be for me," said Hall. "It's been a blessing for me, it's been a blessing for my family. I've learned very, very, very valuable lessons by doing this."
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lehigh Valley could use help from new volunteers.
"Our biggest need is additional male mentors. We're always looking for more guys to step up and be mentors," said Bartels. "We look at interests, we look at location, we look at personality, we really try to make the best match."
They ask for a year commitment from volunteers to ensure enough time to form a relationship with their littles.
If you're interested in learning more about volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lehigh Valley, call their office at (610) 391-1827 or visit their website: www.bbbslv.org
"Don't look to see where the time is, just make the time and it happens," said Hall. "I work 50-plus hours a week, I'm married, I have a three -year-old and a stepson and they all keep me very busy and I have time for Gage."
Dannecker said, "Get a little brother and do a lot of things with them. If you don't have time, just look into it and you can find it and get the kindness out of your heart to help some of those kids out there that need male role models in their life."
There are other ways to support the organization. One way is through their Clothes for Kids' Sake program. Look for donation bins across the Lehigh Valley to drop of clothing donations. The clothes will be sold in thrift stores and some of the money comes back to big Brothers Big Sisters. Find information about other ways to show support in the link above.
Allentown, PA 18102