Local mayors and N.C. representatives were among the several dozen people who gathered at the Governor’s Western Residence in Asheville Sept. 8. to celebrate the work of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina.
Gov. Roy Cooper made an appearance via video to congratulate the work the 41-year-old organization is doing in 18 mountain counties, as well as its being named an Agency of the Year by BBBS America. Cooper declared September as “Big Brothers Big Sisters Month,” as he did last year.
Presenting the proclamation to BBBSWNC CEO Lelia Duncan in the pavilion on the western residence grounds was Drew Christy, director of the governor’s western office. Duncan expressed her thanks to the governor, to the guests, and to what BBBSWNC and its “Bigs” are doing for children throughout Western North Carolina.
“We’re there to create a space to listen, to provide opportunities and experiences that (‘Littles’) wouldn’t otherwise have,” Duncan told the dinner crowd. “It’s about the moments at the grocery store or on a hike where you’re just present. Because after two years (of pandemic shutdowns), we know what mental wellness looks like.
“There are hundreds of kids across North Carolina that are just waiting for a Big. We know statistically when they have a mentor in their life, kids do better academically, they do better in school on a social level. We know that our kids don’t have brushes with the juvenile justice system. They don’t participate in risky behaviors that take people out of a good life.”
Five local mayors and N.C. Reps. Kyle Hall and Brian Turner, as well as Robin Ramsey, field representative for U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, lauded BBBSWNC and its supporters for their work.
“Thank you for all the work that you do, all the volunteer time that you do,” Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer. “It really feeds the soul and the heart. It’s what ultimately drives people to think and understand that they are worth something and that they have meaning. And that they can contribute to their community.”
The day after the event, organizer Dorian Palmer, BBBSWNC Vice President of Philanthropy, said he was “humbled” by the attendance and the speakers’ words.
“Last night was successful because of your willingness and desire to strengthen our communities through one-on-one mentoring,” he wrote participants. “We heard from amazing speakers and community leaders, we were able to gather with one another for a great purpose, and most importantly, we were able to convey our mission – ‘To Ignite the Power and Promise of Youth.’”
“We hope you had a great time last night, but our mission doesn’t stop when an event does. I encourage you to sign up to be a ‘Big,’ which requires only a few hours of your time, a couple of times a month. If you are unable to be a Big, we ask that you continue to be an involved member of our organization as a brand ambassador or Advisory Council member.”
Mayors in attendance were Manheimer, Preston Blakely (Fletcher), Tim Radford (Murphy), Zeb Smathers (Canton), and Barbara Volk (Hendersonville). Also noted was Arianna Leonard, recipient of the 2022 Robin Myer Realizing Potential Award.
Palmer also invited guests and all others to consider a donation. To learn more about becoming a Big and more about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina, visit Become A Big. To see a photo gallery of the evening, check out our Facebook page.