Category Archives: Big Blog

A ‘Great Story’ from Americorps’ Project MARS

Each quarter Americorps collects “Great Stories” from their 18 members throughout the region telling about their experiences assisting regional youth in their classrooms. Here’s one from 2017’s first quarter:

Just a few months ago I had never even heard of Fletcher Elementary, and they most certainly had never heard of me. Gabe (name changed to preserve privacy) and I had no idea we would be spending an hour together once a week. I certainly could have never imagined that my small amount of time with a fifth grader would make even a fraction of an impact.

I was told about Gabe before I had ever met him. The teacher said to me jokingly, “If you could so much as help him stay awake in class, your year here would be a success.” She continued to explain to me that his homework was never turned in, and his voice was never heard in or outside of class. It seemed to me that everyone wanted for him to do better, but he was simply not receptive to the help. How could I possible do anything more than what’s already been done?

Just a couple of months ago we began meeting once a week for an hour. Gabe was remarkably soft spoken. Most of our conversations were inaudible even when we were just a few feet away. I tried to encourage him with laughter and by talking about things that I knew mattered to him. Our progress together seems drudgingly slow, but I decided to use the time as personal practice in patience.

Pretty soon, we’d now gotten into a rhythm during our time together: We always spent the first half hour discussing how to do the homework he was supposed to have done already. Then I would question him why it wasn’t already turned in, and he’d give the same response, “I dunno”.

I tried to take that opportunity to explain how I used to struggle with the exact same things. I was never interested in class enough to stay awake and I was much more interested in playing outside than turning my homework in on time. I told him how this set me up poorly for the things I knew I wanted to do later in life. Each meeting seemed to have some sort of new rendition of this same barely audible conversation.

A couple of weeks ago things shifted—Gabe decided to engage in that conversation for some reason. It’s almost as if he knew that, for once, he needed to listen. When describing it, this moment seems so small—it wasn’t really any greater than any of the other moments Gabe and I shared—just one moment built upon other moments, but leading to something I could have never imagined.

Last week Gabe and I met first thing in the morning. I knew that he was excited to see me because he was waiting for me in my room. I was surprised to see him there, but we sat at the table as usual and he got out his trapper keeper. I knew something was going on because he had the most genuine smile.

I said, “What do we need to work through today?”

At this, Gabe pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. I was getting ready to give him the newest rendition about turning in homework on time when he said “This is extra credit for science class.”

Why on earth would he be doing extra credit if he hasn’t even done the work for initial credit? I thought.

His face got brighter as he made eye contact with me and said at an audible volume, “I finished all of my other work, so this is all I’ve got to work on.”

I must not have hidden my expression of shock very well, because he continued, “I finished it all on Monday when it was assigned. I was just bored I guess.”

Whatever the reason Gabe finished his homework—it doesn’t matter: This was the first time he had finished his homework on time in 2 years. I’m not sure if it was my extra attention or if he truly was just that bored. Either way, it was great to see this kid finish his homework for the first time, on time.

-Jon Goethals

Thanks for Making 2017 Bowl For Kids’ Sake a Great Success!!

Last Saturday at about 8:30 AM, the Bowl For Kids Sake teams started  trickling in at Sky Lanes in West Asheville. Before long, a line had formed at the registration table, the lanes were willing up, an awesome 80s playlist was streaming out over the PA—and the party had begun!

We believe that each child there is a special spark that, when provided with inspiration and encouragement, can lead them to become positive, productive citizens of our community and the world.

We has such a blast celebrating with you all during this year’s Bowl For Kids’ Sake event and thank you all for your participation! 

The Gutter Gurlz! Keeping things lively and playful.

This year’s dress up theme? “Your favorite literary character.” And there was not shortage of literary tastes on exhibit: The Gutter Gurlz (who won best team costume in the second round) included chimney sweeps from P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins series, Pippi Longstocking and a green-hued evil Witch of the West.

Fourth round’s  best team costume prize went to teams Thing One and Thing Two, which together included an array of Dr. Seuss’ fantastical characters ranging from the Lorax to Red Fish…and Blue Fish. However with the banana, monkey and Man in the Yellow Hat suits being sported just down the line on the Keller Williams Broker Asheville team, that round’s costume contest wasn’t easy to judge—and Broker Asheville easily took the runner-up slot.  

Many many thanks to AVL Technologies!

We are so honored by the amazing support that this community showed for our region’s children this year! We had 52 teams and over 200 individual bowlers come out—each of whom graciously put in their effort to raise funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC. 


Thank you so much MB Haynes for championing this event, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the lives of children throughout WNC.

The magnificent MB Haynes team sponsored ten lanes during the event’s first round; GE Aviation held down five lanes on the second round; AVL Technologies was the third round’s 800 pound gorilla with six lanes sponsored, and three different teams from Keller Williams sponsored six lanes in our final 3 PM-5 PM round.

These two pairs of Big/Little Sisters were having a blast bowling and sharing their mentoring experiences with each other.

It was great to see five Bigs participate with their littles!  Thanks to Jimmy Vestal and Reid Gonelia for your lane sponsorship so that these awesome pairs could come out, meet and connect with each other. 

To everyone that came out on Saturday: you are truly helping to start something BIG in the lives of children throughout our region. When a child has access to an enjoyable and caring relationship with an adult who BELIEVES in them—that child can believe in themselves. Littles show improvement in academics, life and social skills, and perhaps most importantly, they gain access to brand new experiences through which they develop higher aspirations of what’s possible for their lives.  

So many thanks to all of the amazing employees and their families who came out! Hope to see you all next year! 



Local mentors win statewide acclaim as “Big Brother and Big Sister Of the Year!”

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina is proud to announce local mentors William Dickerson and Lynne Keating as North Carolina’s Big Brother and Big Sister of the Year.

It’s been five years since Dickerson, a resident of Buncombe County, first met his “little brother” Isiah.

“I always look forward to spending time with my Big Brother because when I’m with William, we always do something different,” reports Isiah.

As a result of their relationship, Isiah has discovered the opportunity to discover his talent in soccer through enrollment in a local soccer league as well as embracing his capacity for academic achievement.

The coming year will be marked with yet another milestone and growth opportunity for Isiah as he steps into The American Adventure Service Corps—a year round program dedicated to inspiring young people to become compassionate and conscientious community members

“In these times—when so many things could divide us—being a Big to Isiah has allowed me diversity in life that I cherish to be a part of.”

William Dickerson, Mentor

Experiencing new things and expanding horizons are common benefits reported by both Bigs and Littles as a result of their match, explains Elizabeth Spaulding, BBBS Program Director of Cashiers, who’s been providing match support for NC’s Big Sister of the Year, Lynne Keating, and her “little sister” Sophie.

“Lynne has been a champion for Sophie, encouraging her and nudging her gently to spread her wings and set her sights high. Their relationship has blossomed with time, and through that, Sophie has become a more independent, confident, vocal, and successful young woman.”

Elizabeth Spaulding, BBBS Cashiers 

“Ultimately, the Director of Education at the Bascom created a new title for Sophie: “Student Fellow,” Keating reflects.

When they were first matched over three years ago, Sophie’s interest in art quickly became clear to Keating, who found an opportunity to nurture that nascent talent with frequent trips to local art center Bascom.

With Keating’s help, Sophie is now enrolled as an art student at a private school in north Georgia, where she is not only developing her artistic talents, but also discovering opportunities for leadership and project collaboration.

“Not only has Lynne helped me immensely these past couple of years, she’s proven to be an amazing friend,” says Biaso, “She’s never spoken to me as if I were a child. She’s always honest and willing to discuss, which is something I greatly appreciate. I think without Lynne I wouldn’t have been pushed to go out of my comfort zone in many situations, and I don’t think I would have progressed this much as a person without her.”

The National Big Of The Year Selection Committee will announce the National Big Of The Year in April, 2017.

Congratulations to February’s Big Of The Month

Congratulations to Hannah Lowman, BBBS Buncombe County’s Big Of The Month for February!

Many thanks to February’s Big Of The Month Hannah Lowman! Watching  Hannah’s  relationship with her little, Ka’ria, grow over the past three years has been an inspiration.

These two have spent their time up until now in BBBS’ After-School program, and are now looking forward to starting a whole new chapter with access to new activities and experiences in our Community-Based program! 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Buncombe County Partners with Asheville Police Department for local “Bigs In Blue” Program

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Buncombe County and the Asheville Police Department have launched a brand new partnership that provides local youth with supportive mentors while also enriching community-police relations! 

On January 30th the program’s first match was made between APD forensics expert Carissa Herrington and her Little, Lonna, in Vance Elementary’s after-school program.“Bigs in Blue” is a national BBBS program that started late last year. It pairs police officers with local youth who need support, and Asheville is one of a growing number of cities around the nation that is participating.

“Bigs in Blue” is a national BBBS program that started late last year. It pairs police officers with local youth who need support, and Asheville is one of a growing number of cities around the nation that is participating.

“We are very excited with the response to the Bigs in Blue program” says Robin Myer, Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC. In December, Myer met with APD Chief Tammy Hooper in December to discuss a local Bigs in Blue initiative, “Chief Hooper and the Asheville Police Department were on-board as soon as they learned about this nationwide initiative by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, and we are looking forward to positively impacting more youth with this special program,” he says.

Locally, Bigs in Blue pairings are being made for BBBS WNC’s after-school and in-school programs and already, seven APD officers have volunteered to mentor. 

“I get to spend time with [Lonna] one on one, getting to know what’s going on in her life and also helping her through her personal challenges she is facing and giving her someone to talk to,” says APD forensics expert Carissa Herrington, adding that the program “[R]eally puts us out into the community…and gives the perspective of how we are helping with their safety and what we can do for them.”

As a Big, officers will spend an hour each week with their little—either assisting with studies and homework in school or connecting after-school through art, sports games and other activities. Additional locations slated for Bigs in Blue activities include Jones Elementary School, Montford Recreation Center, the YWCA after-school and Stephens Lee Recreation Center.

“The Asheville Police Department is excited for the opportunity to partner with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Buncombe County to reach out to some of the youngest members of our community,” shared Chief Hooper, “One of the best things we can do to improve trust and help the youth in our city is to listen to them, spend time with them and just be there for them.”