In my quest to secure personal testimonials of lives changed by the member agencies of United Way, I’d like to thank Nan Stuckey and Margaret Butler for sharing this heart-warming story of love and compassion. Here are some excerpts from Margaret’s story …

“I believe who we are as a person can be defined by a single experience or exchange in our lives. For me, these defining moments in time came with my experience as a “Little” in my Big Sister Match. The youth of today need more direction and more attention as they learn the value of their own worth. There is no better way for this to happen than being involved in the mentoring experience of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chatham-Kent.

The most powerful impact on my life was my Big Sister. Without my Big Sister as a mentor I don’t know that I would have become the woman I am today. Most children grow up in homes that not only provide for their basic needs but for their inner individual needs, too. In my home I was the eldest child of a woman that suffered from clinical depression. Being a victim of sexual assault at a young age and growing up with a parent who struggled to provide even the basic needs because of her mental illness, I was lost, confused, and often times very alone. In school I struggled and had no friends. At home I was responsible for much of the household duties including caring for a younger sibling and a parent who had her own struggles.

After being referred to the agency, I was matched with a very pleasant, yet busy woman. We were matched for about a year and a half when she ended the match because of scheduling difficulties with her employer. I was crushed and took it very personally. I thought maybe I was just unlovable. The agency did not give up on me and convinced me to give it another go. After a very short time I was matched with the most incredible woman I have ever met. I am so glad I gave in and agreed to try again.

 

Mavis took a nervous, shy and very untrusting girl and stuck by me as a mentor. The original obligation of a “Big” was clearly defined, but what to do with a troubled “Little” like me wasn’t. Mavis stuck it through. She took me on day trips of shopping and nature related activities. She took me out to eat, on her boat, to where she worked, introduced me to her family and taught me to care for animals properly. The list goes on and on. It really was about what she taught me while she shared her time with me.

Mavis taught me things like patience and tolerance and to look for, and consider, all of people’s possible motivations for their actions. She did this so that I could learn to trust again. She even helped me understand various religions and science theories so I could decide what I believed as a person. She taught me I had worth as a person, that I could accomplish things, and shape my own destiny. She helped me with my homework … and with my broken heart.

When I made mistakes she helped me learn from them rather than repeat them. She was full of second and third chances and never judged me. But, most importantly, she taught me that, not only was I lovable, I was loved, accepted and wanted as a person. She gave me something to look forward to each week and was never afraid to help me through a struggle. As I grew as an individual, she waited patiently as I worked through my shyness or embarrassment or awkwardness.

Mavis exposed me to things outside of my darkened world and offered me a positive outlet. I would not have finished school, have gotten most of the jobs, or have become the great mother I am today without her influence and constant guidance during our match. Mavis encourages me, prays with and for me and is still today, my most trusted confidante and someone I admire. Mavis is my personal hero and the reason I have so much faith in mentoring programs. There is no such thing as a bad kid or a lost cause – only kids who really need someone to hold their hand, love them, and most importantly, teach them how to love themselves.

You don’t have to give hours, you don’t have to be a credited psychologist – nor are most “Littles” as difficult as I was. But the kids that are like I was cannot be turned into productive, upstanding citizens without this world’s Mavis’s. I only wish there were more of them to go around.

I believe in mentoring. I believe we could do today’s youth more justice. My name is Margaret, and the most influential and beneficial experience in my life was the time I shared with my mentor and Big Sister, Mavis.”

Chatham-Kent Big Brothers Big Sisters currently receives an allocation of $99,217 from United Way to offer recruitment and support for adult volunteers who mentor local boys and girls and develop healthy relationships through role modeling. They supported 113 “matches” throughout Chatham-Kent in 2011.

Change starts here! Thanks to those who have made a contribution to this year’s United Way Campaign to ensure that these valuable programs continue!