'She has matured so much'

March 29, 2001

'She has matured so much'

Plastic children's furniture fits perfectly in Pat Henson's living room.

So does its occupant, 9-year-old Melissa Smith of Waynesboro, Pa.

Henson and Melissa were paired through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County, Pa., for two years. They recently celebrated their anniversary by donning corsages and going out for pizza.

"I'd been interested on and off for over 20 years," Henson says about getting involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters. But for many years, her schedule wasn't conducive.

When the time was right, she went through the interviews and background checks in hopes the program would find a good match for her.


"They sure did with us," says Henson, 71, of Waynesboro.

"First I was shy, then I was not," says Melissa, a fourth-grader at Mowrey Elementary School in Waynesboro.

The two meet every weekend. On occasion, Melissa's brother, Kyle, 7, tags along.

Sometimes they go to parks, where Melissa likes to play on the monkey bars.

"She's a very friendly little girl. She always makes friends with the kids at the park," Henson says.

"Pat's a good Big Sister. She takes everybody shopping," Melissa says, sometimes letting Kyle and some of their cousins come along. They have bought cameras, candy and shoes, and recently came back with cards and gifts for friends and family members.

Sitting at the children's desk in Henson's townhouse, Melissa proudly exclaims, "I'm the tapist person," as she puts tape on a gift. "I'm the typist," chuckles Henson, who works as a receptionist at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., and as a secretary for the chief of the Support Services Division there.

On warm days, Henson moves the table outside, where she and Melissa share lunch.

The pair also has done things with Kyle and his Big Brother, like going to picnics in Harrisburg, Pa., and to Hersheypark in Hershey, Pa.

Henson says she joined the program to help a child, but "It's given me an awful lot, too. I have learned from her."

Henson says her eyesight is getting worse, so threading needles is difficult. Melissa taught her that she shouldn't just lick thread before putting it through the eye of a needle, but should soak it in her mouth first.

Henson, a native of California, also learned from Melissa the art of kicking off built-up snow and ice from the area between the bumper and tires on her car in the winter.

Melissa says she has learned an important lesson from Henson, too: How to light birthday candles using a strand of spaghetti.

"She has matured so much," Henson says.

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