It started with a phone call in my office early last fall. A man I respect, one who sat in on the second job interview I did with Presbyterian Church nearly eleven years ago, was on the other end of the line.
“Ever hear of Big Brothers, Big Sisters?” He asked. “I think we can do it here. Will you help us?”
Mercy, I was already too busy. But it nagged at me.
So I went to the first informational meeting, attended by about 30 community leaders. Mostly, I went to support the man who had called me…but there was an exciting energy in the room, facts and figures were tossed around, the plan was proposed, I was intrigued.
And then I missed the organizational meeting–I was on vacation.
Another friend who was interested in the program called me, “I understand if you’re too busy. I get it that you have so much going on, but just in case you’re still interested, the next meeting is…” I went to that one. And another one. And then they put me in charge of recruiting volunteers. And I attended more meetings.
With an amazing group of people who are committed to seeing something change in Henderson…
- A town that leads the state (we’re #1!) in Juvenile petitions.
- A town with a frightening drop out rate.
- A town that has an undeniable drug problem among adults and our youth.
- A town that needs a proven program for our young people BEFORE they get arrested, addicted, written off.
I’ve seen lots of groups of people who were going to change things here come and go. I’ve participated in seminars attempting to address this problem. I’ve read the reports, sat with people who shook their heads and lamented the situation, I’ve heard many solutions pitched.
None of them are like this. Most of those groups never made it out of the first set of meetings. Either the participants couldn’t agree on the problem…or the solution…or the method…or the hoped-for outcome.
This group–the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Henderson County advisory board? It’s different.
When we pitched the program to the City Commission (in hopes of receiving their support, both moral and financial) the other night, one of the commissioners asked, “How long have you been organized?”
“Since October?” our spokeswoman Darlene Marshall-Ware looked at the other 10 of us board members seated behind her. We nodded–that sounds about right.
“You’ve done all of this in less than a year?” He asked. (Actually, less than six months if you’re doing the math.)
It has been amazing to be even a small part of this group that will bring such an amazing program to Henderson County. We have raised almost $30,000 in cash and $16,000 in kind, are in the process of hiring a part-time program director and will begin matching Bigs and Littles this Summer so that the program can begin running with the 2011-2012 school year. Grant writing and presentations to groups who can support us continue.
There are about 7,200 students in Henderson County between the ages of 5 and 18. If even just 10% of those kids need a mentor (and lets face it, the number’s bound to be a lot higher), that’s 720 kids who need 720 mentors.
Bottom line? There’s a lot of work to do. I’m convinced I’m with the right group to get it done.
“There is hope, ” Darlene told the commissioners. “We are part of the solution. We will not rest until every child in Henderson-Henderson County is successful.”
I love this team and I’m proud of us. There will be more to this story, for sure…
Gleaner Article about our visit to Henderson Fiscal Court
Gleaner Article about our visit to the City Commission