As a funded component of United Way’s Education
initiative, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Juniata Valley (BBBS) is an
organization that matches up nearly a hundred local kids with trained mentors
in the Mifflin-Juniata region. Students can be referred to this program for a
myriad of reasons. For a nine-year-old girl named Alana Hockenberry, BBBS
became a way to overcome the obstacles of being overly emotional and suffering
from phantom pain.
Alana’s “Big Sister” is Cheryl Swineford, a
volunteer who has worked with BBBS for four years now. Since being paired with
Alana, Cheryl has seen her “Little” make huge improvements, saying that “she’s
becoming more outgoing and confident. At first she was very quiet, but she has
become much more open with me.”
Alana and Cheryl spend their time doing lots of
fun activities, including eating out at restaurants, baking together, making
crafts, watching movies, and going on trips. According to Alana, some of her
favorite trips with Cheryl have been visiting Hersheypark and going on a train
ride. They see each other at least once a week, and although BBBS only asks
their mentors for one hour of volunteer time per week, Cheryl typically spends
anywhere from three to five hours with Alana each time that they meet.
“I seriously look forward to our time together,”
said Cheryl, who first began volunteering because all of her own children are
now grown up and out of the house. “My relationship with Alana is forever, and
she’ll always be a part of my life.”
The mentorship opportunities with this program
are flexible, allowing volunteers to work around personal schedules. With the
influence of vetted volunteers and layered case management, children flourish
under the type of relationship that is unique to BBBS. Statistics show that the
effects are tangible; the “Littles” improve in a variety of areas. They get
along better with peers and family, do better in school, and avoid at-risk
behaviors such as drugs, alcohol, and tobacco use.
According to Alana’s mother, Christina Hummel,
the influence of BBBS has made a vast difference in her child’s life. Since being matched with Cheryl, Alana has
made so much improvement that she no longer needs to see her counselor. “Cheryl
has been a huge blessing,” says Hummel, “we’re so glad she’s in our lives.”
further support Big Brothers Big Sisters and other likeminded nonprofits, donations
to this year’s campaign can be made to the United Way
of Mifflin-Juniata, 13 East Third Street, Lewistown, PA, 17044. Phone: (717)
248-9636, or visit us online at www.mjunitedway.org.
If you are interested in becoming a mentor, please call Big Brothers Big Sisters of Juniata Valley at (717) 248-4034.