Saluting Those Who Step Up for Children Who Have Lost Fathers

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As this weekend highlights men who are devoted to their families, celebrated on Father’s Day, there’s a group of men in our community who also deserve special recognition and our thanks: you who serve as mentors, guides, friends, and stand-in dads for our young people.

There are many reasons that a father are no longer present in a child’s life. First, a dad of any age might have passed away after a longtime health challenge or an accidental early passing. Second, a dad may be out of the country on military service and not home every night for dinner. Third, for whatever reason, sometimes a dad just isn’t there.

Fortunately in our community, one of the first places we find great father figures to step up is within our own families. Often, a grandfather, uncle, or an older brother will step in as role models and fills that deep void in a child’s life. They deserve recognition and thanks.

If Father’s Day finds your youngster wishing they had a special adult in their lives, please consider contacting Big Brothers Big Sisters and The Boys & Girls Clubs locally. To every adult who takes the time to make any child’s happiness, safety, and security your priority, we salute and thank you this Father’s Day for stepping up to be a solid male presence in the lives of children and youth who need you.

We’re fortunate here to have two nonprofits whose mission meets the needs of local children without adult role models. Locally, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Brazos Valley has the mission “in defending the potential of children in our community.” Their mentoring program “builds relationships that last a lifetime and makes a positive impact of both Bigs and Littles.” Special fundraisers during the year fund many community activities to sustain this program. BBBS staff work together to match Littles (youth) with adults (Bigs), and enduring friendships are made.

 

Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Brazos Valley

Does the idea of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Brazos Valley (BBBS) seem great for someone you know in your family or among your friends’ families? The time you can spend with a young person can mean the world to them. Just having a friend you can count on seeing at least three times a month gives them a sense of confidence and continuity. You might take them with you to run errands, or go grab a pizza, any ‘normal life’ things that they miss out on where children in two-parent families take for granted.

The organization BBBS often sponsors group events, where Bigs and Littles can gather together, or they might have group seating at local events whether sports or entertainment. Their website, https://www.bbbs.org/, offers specifics on getting involved, the programs, how you can enroll a child, and you can see great reasons to become a part of this exciting organization today.

Terry Dougherty is the longtime valued Executive Director of this important group, whose local office is based in College Station. If you would like to go through the application to be a Big, contact her at info@bigmentor.org and know that you can also bring application for a child to be placed with a Big, too. This chapter of Big Brothers, Big Sisters is part of the BBBS of South Texas, which is headquartered in San Antonio.

Boys & Girls Clubs of the Brazos Valley

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Brazos Valley is open 8am–5pm Monday-Friday even in the summer. Here, children can develop “ongoing relationships with caring, adult professionals and learn about character development to become responsible citizens and leaders of our community and nation.”

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Brazos Valley (BGCBV; website https://www.bgcbv.org/) offers many opportunities to volunteer.  From their web site, they have six primary program areas where you can help: “character & leadership; education & career; health & life skills; the arts; sports, fitness & recreation; and, specialized initiatives.”

Inside these program areas you’ll find a financial literacy program “Money Matters: Make it Count,” that’s for teenagers from 13–18. There’s also another program called “Career Launch.net” and in just two of these programs alone, you will find that a young person who has never been presented with the options of how to make money, much less manage it, can start thinking today about their future careers and begin to position themselves for their next steps. The summer months especially are important for young people to learn valuable skills.

There’s a powerful relationship between goodhearted people in this community and the youth who are served at the BGCBV. Everyday challenges (kids staying cool in the heat of summer, learning to swim when there’s no one around to teach them, young people learning how to interview, train for and become good employees, learning how to manage the money once made—each of these value-added building elements) are met at the BGCBV.

One ongoing challenge they do have is funding. The typical citizen drives down William Joel Bryan downtown and has no idea that this wonderful, but older, center is dealing with an increasingly large leaky roof in the back that becomes more problematic with each rainstorm. It’s not well known, and it’s so easy to overlook a single need until you consider the hundreds of children and their staff/volunteers/team leaders who are impacted by that leaky roof.

This center has also been using a very old projection television so long that it just recently gave out. This weekend at one big-box retail store, a replacement TV is available for purchase for $400–$500, but the BGCBV doesn’t have $400–$500 in extra emergency funding. Imagine the impact of one or more people stepping up and donated to this nonprofit towards a new replacement television?

It’s only June, but sadly it was the only TV in the building to entertain the children when it’s too hot (after 11am) to stay outside in the Texas heat. So, it’s over for all the children who are hoping for and counting on any TV or movie watching until a new one is potentially gifted to the group. On a different level, they can always use new basketballs for their sports programs. It’s not well known, but the basketball program at the BGCBV is ranked in the Top 5 nationally by the NBA. Talent abounds here, and the sooner the children can begin to learn the game, the longer they learn to love the game.

Inside the BGCBV, now in their 60th year here, Tiffany Parker serves as CEO, but she started out there 17 years ago first as a volunteer. Athletic Director is Gerald Carter, a Bryan hometown hero, who for eight years played professional football for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Lester Banks heads up Social Recreation. Lester, also an employee of BISD, was recently recognized nationally as Life Changer of the Year. With men of character and the hardest work ethics and family values, it’s rewarding to know of these, and other, men affiliated with the BGCBV who, often, represent the only positive male role models that these young people have in their lives.

This weekend, thanks to the initiative of CEO Tiffany Parker, a group of youth at BGCBV is being given the opportunity to study graphic design and play Fortnight, using computers that would otherwise be unused over the weekend. This is just one example of how she shows innovation, looking for affordable and available opportunities to enrich the lives of the children, beyond simply keeping them safe and cool. She is continually working with the community to tell the story of the BGCBV, so if you are ever in need of a speaker for a great program, I recommend her highly.

If you’re interested in becoming involved in Bryan activities, consider reaching out to them (https://www.bgcbv.org/). If you’re in College Station, Cheletia Johnson is the Unit Director at Lincoln Center. They have a practical, reasonable, and vital wish list of items that can be donated in lieu of cash, but you’re also welcome to give your time, which is equally valuable. Contact Nancy Dee Paschal if you’d like to help donate towards the new TV or helping with the leaks in the roof. Volunteering is the best feeling in the world when you see the difference you can make, one person at a time.

Now after reading this, I hope you know that our very special community of Bryan-College Station is being well cared for by people who have and continue to “step up” and fill the role of a father figure for area youth. So, this Father’s Day, in addition to those men who are biological fathers doing their best to provide for their families, be sure and wish all the men who’ve stepped up to be fathers for kids who don’t have their own a Very Happy Father’s Day. I salute all of you.

And for those whose fathers live out of town, call them, Skype them, Facetime them, and make sure they hear from you. To those whose fathers have died, and are not here to celebrate today, reflect on the greatest things you remember about them, and smile. You are their legacy.

 

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