April is National Volunteer Month, a good time to highlight the important work that BBBS volunteers do.
Sandra, on right in the photo, knew she wanted to help children when she retired as an elementary school teacher several years ago. So when someone suggested Big Brothers Big Sisters of Swain County, she leapt at the chance.
April is National Volunteer Month, a good time to highlight the important work that BBBS volunteers do. And Sandra has done a lot for BBBS Swain County, and especially for one of its young residents.
Sandra started when she was asked to join the branch’s Advisory Board. She sought out a match at Swain West Elementary School, where she had taught school, and was paired with Krysten.
Krysten, at left in the photo, was in the third grade, “and she was just having a very difficult time,” said Sandra, who lives in the county’s Needmore community. Krysten’s older sister had cancer, a traumatic experience that entailed lots of visits to the hospital. Sadly, her sister died, and her mother and father split up. Sandra was there throughout.
“I just let her talk,” Sandra said. “A lot of times it would be like, ‘this was my sister’s pair of boots.’ She was in the grieving process, and we worked through that. She needed someone beside her family to just kind of vent. I think she didn’t want to burden her mother with it, because her mother was going through the grieving as well. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to people not in your family.”
Swain County, one of the poorest counties in North Carolina, has few resources through which its residents can help children deal with the difficulties they face. Big Brothers Big Sisters is one of those programs. Volunteers there and at other branches of BBBS of Western North Carolina provide a sympathetic ear while doing things with their “Littles” that encourage the children to aim high in life.
Krysten has done just that. Soon she will be graduating from Swain County High School and getting married. She and Sandra have been a match all that time. Sandra couldn’t be prouder of how her Little Sister has turned out.
“She just has grown into a beautiful young woman,” Sandra said. “She has a good head on her shoulders. She thinks things out. She has goals for her life.
“Even though our match ends when she graduates, I will still be there for her,” said Sandra, who also gave props to Krysten’s supportive mother. “If Krysten needs to talk, I’m there. The day she picked out her wedding dress, she sent me a picture of it.”
Is Sandra going to the wedding? Of course!
“I’ve got it marked on my calendar,” she said. “She’s always going to be my Little Sister. It will be a lifelong friendship.”