Three boost Big Brothers Big Sisters

Organization recognizes contributions to Washington Co. program

Organization recognizes contributions to Washington Co. program

December 19, 2007|By JANET HEIM

WASHINGTON COUNTY ? Mary Rogers defines herself as a "big fan" of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Her son, who is now grown, was once a little brother in the program.

Rogers, who taught at Winter Street Elementary School for 13 years and now teaches in Frederick County, was a Big Sister in Washington County for almost two years until her little sister moved out of state. She remained involved with the program, then was matched with a new little sister almost three years ago ? a girl who had been a student in her second-grade class at Winter Street.

Now that her own two children are grown, Rogers said there was a void, which the Big Brothers Big Sisters program has helped fill.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters program partners children, the majority of whom are being raised by single parents, with adult volunteers of the same gender. The volunteers agree to spend three to five hours each week with their little brother or sister, said Crystal Davis, casework supervisor at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washington County.


Rogers' involvement with the program was recognized when she was selected as the Alice Sencindiver Big Sister of the Year at the agency's annual dinner on Nov. 14. John Jolicoeur was named the Meyer Berkson Big Brother of the Year and Trina Johnson was named the School-based Mentor of the Year.

"They're three great, deserving individuals," Davis said.

Big Sister of the Year

Rogers and her little sister spend Saturdays together.

"Their lives are so hard. You really have to make time, to fill in where they're lacking," said Rogers, 57.

As the oldest of eight children, Rogers knows how important one-on-one time with a caring adult is.

"The power of somebody to care is beyond words. Parents are barely making it day in, day out. Hopefully, you're making a difference," said Rogers, who lives in the South End of Hagerstown.

Big Brother of the Year

John Jolicoeur has raised two daughters and worked hard to make them a priority as they were growing up. When he moved here from Maine in 2002, he was looking for a way to give back to the community.

Four years ago, he became a Big Brother. His 11-year-old little brother is being raised by a single mother.

Jolicoeur, 46, said being a community-based mentor for the program is much like the coaching he did for his daughters' sports teams. He said there was always one girl on the team who needed extra encouragement and motivation.

On Saturdays, Jolicoeur, who lives in Hagerstown, sets aside about six hours to spend with his little brother. Their time together is spent playing ball, going to the movies, playing board games or just hanging out.

Jolicoeur said big brothers and sisters are reminded by Davis that spending time with the children is the important component in the program.

"Hopefully, as he gets older, he'll realize the influence I had. I'm hoping for the best," said Jolicoeur, who works as a shift supervisor for Amcor Stevens Packaging.

Jolicoeur said he was surprised when he learned he had been selected for the award. The best reward was when his little brother read a letter he had written about John at the awards banquet.

"It brought the house down. It was very funny and very touching," Jolicoeur said.

School-based Mentor of the Year

Even though she has no children of her own, Trina Johnson said her life is all about kids. She has worked in day care for 22 years as the Director of Hagerstown Day Nursery, and as the child-care coordinator at her church, Otterbein United Methodist.

A board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters for "a bazillion years", Johnson had a little sister through the community-based program. After her little sister graduated from high school, Johnson decided to take a break until she learned about the school-based mentor program.

In that program, students who have been identified by school personnel are paired with adult volunteers of either gender. The volunteer agrees to spend 45 to 60 minutes each week with the student in the school. Their time together is focused on social and emotional development, not academic tutoring, David said.

Johnson now mentors two boys, Kiefer and Matthew, at Eastern Elementary School, where she spends time with them on Thursday afternoons. The boys were former students at Hagerstown Day Nursery, and Johnson was familiar with their family situations.

"Both these boys, I saw such a need in both of them. It's rewarding to do little things for them," Johnson said. "I love spending time with them. Both are very bright but have a lot of challenges."

One of the boys' teachers said Thursday, the day Johnson visits, is his best day of the week.

For information about the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, call 301-733-4711.

The Herald-Mail Articles