January 16, 2018
In honor of National Mentoring Month, Flat Rock-based radio station WTZQ featured an interview with local Henderson County Big and advisory council member Joe Sherman on their show Local Focus.
WTZQ: this morning on Local Focus, we’re going to learn about Big Brothers Big Sisters. January happens to be National Mentoring Month and I happen to have a guest in our studio this morning Joe Sherman, who is not only a Big but happens to be on the advisory council of our local chapter.
Joe, you were telling me you are newer to the community, you’ve been here around 7 months or so, but immediately got connected to Big Brothers Big Sisters?
WTZQ: Why is that?
Joe: I came from New Jersey where I was involved with the Big Brothers program for nine years. I was a Big with a little boy. I started with him when he was six, he is now 15. He had been through some pretty tough times, but I just kept showing up and being a support system for him through five different foster homes in a two year time period before he finally as adopted with one of his sisters as a matter of fact.
We spent a lot of time together doing a lot of different things and he got to do things that we may not have necessarily been able to do otherwise. And I tried to give him some experiences that I had had growing up in the New York City area.
WTZQ: So what is it that made you say: “You know what? This is something I’m going to do.”
Joe: It was the result of a coworker who had been a Big Sister, who had suggested to me that she thought I had something to offer to kids. And that’s what got me started on the program in New Jersey. From there, you have to go through an interview process, a fingerprint check, criminal history background checks, and some extensive training as far as dealing with kids and the situations that they run into.
I ended up on the board for the umbrella agency for the program in New Jersey as well. It was a good experience and I’m still in touch with this young man now.
WTZQ: So I can only imagine what type of impression or what type of difference it made in this young man’s life, that you took under your wing as a Big. But what sort of changes did it make in your life?
Joe: That’s an interesting question. It fostered a commitment. In the program I was in in New Jersey the minimum commitment was for one year, two hours a week.
And for the most part I fulfilled that commitment. Here, it is a little bit different because we have the School-Based program and the Community-Based program. So I’m involved with the community-based program which requires the commitment of 2 hours, twice a month. And the School-Based program is a commitment to go to the school where the Little is, and spend an hour there once a week. You spend about a half an hour doing academics and then you go play in the gym or just out in the yard—that kind of stuff. And I’m in the community-based part of the program.
So I’ve been matched up with a young man who has just turned eight years old, and he is living with his younger sister and older sister with their grandmother who has just adopted them. This young man’s older sister had also been match with a Big Sister, and there had been a great desire by Steve Kirkland (BBBS’ Outreach Coordinator), to get my Little matched up as quickly as possible as well. So that’s how it all started: I looked at the Big Brothers program from New Jersey—knowing I was coming here—and I started the dialogue and the paperwork. Once I got here, Steve gave me a little bit of time to get settled, and then we sat down and talked and he proposed this particular match and I said: “Let’s go for it”, and that was six months ago.
WTZQ: So tell me some of the things you and your Little do.
Joe: Well, we just saw the Harlem Globetrotters last week.
WTZQ: That’s right! They were in town last week!
Joe: Yes, they were in Asheville. And the kid was so excited that he was dress and out the door before I even got to the house. And…it was fun he really enjoyed it. He also went to his first baseball game with the Asheville Tourists—who support the Big Brothers program so that if I call into the main office in Asheville—they will provide us tickets for free, the Big and the Little. So we were going for a double-header, as it turned out. We got there early and the ushers said “Go on down to the first row, because the first game is not that crowded, but the second game will be,”
And I said “That’s great, this is this kid’s first time to a ball game.”
Then the guys says: “Don’t go anywhere.” He comes back a few minutes later with a baseball, hands it to my Little guy and says “Hope you enjoy your first game.”
And so we just sat and watched the game, he asked questions. After awhile, he got bored and he expressed that and was comfortable expressing it and I said: “The game’s almost over, we’ll just leave after the first game,” so we did that.
We just hang out. I have him come with me when I have to run errands, just so he can see what daily life is all about. Grandma says: “Go do boy things,” because she wants a male influence for this young man. He’s a bright young boy, likes to read, very inquisitive. He was asking me the other day on the drive to Asheville questions about the Statue of Liberty and whether I knew about it. And I said: “I was there sixty-two years ago for the first time when my grandfather took me there,” and he says “How long does it take to get to the top of the statue?” And I said “I don’t remember, but it’s more crowded now and it takes a little longer to get up there. And you have to wait in line to get on the ferry, they you go over to the island and check the island out and then you go climbing up to the head.” And he said “Well, how did it get built?” And we talked about that and the history that I knew and why it was rebuilt about 20 years ago and he wanted to know why and how did they do that? Where did the statue come from? I told him it was a gift to us from France. He’s a very inquisitive young man.
About a month ago someone gave us tickets to Dollywood. So we went to Dollywood and again he was very excited and we did a lot of walking—he didn’t want to go on the big rides, which is fine. He fell asleep on the ride there, and it was an interesting first time for me going on those curvy roads on I-40. So on the way back, he’s helping me navigate with my GPS, and we hit the first set of curves and I don’t say anything, and he’s just sitting and watching and then after awhile he says: “Joe: those are some serious curves.” And from there he says “Look at all the starts in the sky,” and I start talking to him about how fantastic it is to be in a part of the country where you can see those stars. And we start talking about constellations and all that, and he’s interested in all that. He likes to read and I’ve gotten him some books already and I told him that we’d see if we can find something on astronomy for him so we can have further conversations.
WTZQ: That’s the stuff, that is just so great. It is simply being able to have conversations like that that can make such a big difference in someone’s life—and not just in his life but in your life also, I can tell that it’s something you’re passionate about. So there are two different types of ways that you can become a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters: one is the Community-Based which you are a part of and the other is the School-Based which is a little less time right?
Joe: Yes, but it’s just as important.
WTZQ: So if folks want to learn more about how they can help, how they can become a Big or if they have somebody that would like to be a Little—how do they get more information?
Joe: Well, Shelbie English is the Program Coordinator for Henderson County and she can be reached at 828-693-8153. That’s the office for Big Brothers which is on Case Street in Hendersonville. So she would talk to you, get the paperwork filled out and set you up with the process of getting involved. For Littles, there is a waiting list in Hendersonville. So that we need males, we need females. If people are interested in getting involved they can give Shelbie a call. There are also other council members who are recruiters so that if someone wants to find out about it we are all available to talk as well. But Shelbie is the entry point and she’s very well-versed in the program and an excited individual who is very into the program.
WTZQ: So it’s Big Brothers Big Sisters of Henderson County and Big Brothers Big Sisters month, nationally. And Joe Sherman, we are really glad to have you here for a couple of reasons and we are really glad to have you in the community. You’ve been here for seven months and you embody what Henderson County is all about and that is people giving back to the community and we need more people moving here like you! It always amazes me to see how much the residents of Henderson County give back and you do embody that spirit so thank you for doing that.
Joe: Thank you.