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Mentors needed for young people

February 02, 2009|By JANET HEIM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- In his inaugural address, President Obama encouraged Americans to get involved in service, to find ways to give back to their communities.

Elaine Rose and the other volunteers and staff at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washington County hope that appeal might lead more volunteers to their door.

The goal of Big Brothers Big Sisters is to pair adult volunteers with local youth, either in community-based or school-based mentoring programs.

Rose, who has been a BBBS board member since 2002, has been a school-based mentor and is awaiting a match for a student at Salem Avenue Elementary School, which is close to her job at the Washington County Health Department.

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Four other elementary schools -- Bester, Eastern, Fountaindale and Pangborn -- and two middle schools -- E. Russell Hicks and Northern -- also are included in the program.

"It's only 45 to 60 minutes per week. It's incredible the relationship you build in that little time each week," said Rose, who lives in Hagerstown. "You get to know the child and share what's going on in their lives."

She added that the time at school includes a range of activities, including playing games, doing schoolwork, reading, talking and participating in classroom activities.

Rose, 58, recently was recognized as the 2008 Board Member of the Year for her commitment to the organization.

Prior to becoming a board member, she helped for a number of years with different activities, including the organization's major fundraiser, Bowl For Kids' Sake. She also helped plan the bimonthly activities for "Bigs" and "Littles," such as roller skating, a swim picnic, a trip to a pumpkin patch and a holiday party.

For Rose, though, her involvement isn't what's important. It's all about the children who are served by the program and the other adults who make it happen.

"We have a wonderful staff, volunteers and board members. Everyone together makes the program work," said Rose, who has a grown son and a 7-year-old grandson.

There is a waiting list of 31 children for the school-based program and 20 children for the community-based program. Interested adults can fill out an application, then have an interview and background check. The community-based program also requires a home visit.

It can take about a week to be approved for the school-based program. A match can be made within five days if a compatible child is waiting, said Tracy Mumma, BBBS mentor manager.

"Anyone interested who feels they have the time, I would encourage them to apply. It's a very rewarding experience," Rose said.

Teams are now forming for this year's Bowl For Kids' Sake, which is scheduled for Sunday, April 19.

More information may be obtained by calling the Big Brothers Big Sisters office at 301-739-4711 or by going to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washington County Maryland.

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