Fort Wayne, IN — Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana recently hosted its annual Volunteer Recognition Dinner to honor the recipients of the agency’s 2012 Volunteers of the Year awards.
Approximately 425 guests attended the dinner and ceremony at Fort Wayne Hotel to join in the celebration and honor volunteerism throughout Northeast Indiana and Southern Michigan.
“This event is our way to not only recognize individual volunteers, but a way to say thank to all of our volunteers that dedicate a few hours every month to mentoring,” said Josette Rider, Chief Executive Officer for Big Brothers Big Sisters. “Children are accomplishing dreams and doing things they never would have without a mentor. None of that could happen without our volunteers. They are walking proof that just a little bit of time goes a long way in putting our youth on the path to success. We thank them for that. But the search is not over. More than 450 “Littles” still remain on the waiting list. Of those, 70 percent are boys. The need for mentoring has never been higher, but the flexibility of our programs has never been better either.”
Volunteer nominees were chosen from a variety of counties based on the impact they’ve made in a young child’s life. A third party panel consisting of individuals not involved in volunteering for the agency was selected to grade each match based on the same criteria. In total, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana recognized 31 outstanding nominees and then presented awards to winners in five categories. The winners and nominees (County acknowledged in parenthesis) were:
- National Big Sister of the Year: Alyssa Ivanson (Allen)
In addition to the local awards presented, Alyssa was recognized for her recent acceptance of National Big Sister of the Year for the entire country by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Alyssa and her “Little” Jordain have formed a special, yet unique relationship. Catching movie premiers and thrill rides at amusement parks are just some of the things they enjoy. The true value of this relationship is the bond they’ve formed as Alyssa helps Jordain conquer Asperger’s Syndrome. Jordain has made significant progress in her confidence and succeeded at tasks that were previously very difficult, such as making eye contact, ordering at a restaurant and having general conversations. And, most importantly, Jordain has someone she trusts and a friend she can rely on. Jordain summed it up by saying, “She’s a great friend and an even better Big Sister.”
- Northeast Indiana Big Sister of the Year: Sherri Milton (Kosciusko)
Nominees: Laura Frederick (Steuben), Machelle Fordham (Allen), Vicki Swanson (Allen), Rae Davis (Allen), Stephanie Wainscott (Kosciusko)
Matched since 2004, this Big & Little are from both Kosciusko and Adams County. This special match has endured a lot. “Little” Sister Sarah moved an hour and half hour away to Adams County, yet Sherri remained constant and committed as they continue to meet – sometimes for a weekend getaway and sometimes just for a quick slice of pizza. They are adventurous, taking on challenges such as Yellow Stone National Park, white water rafting and horseback riding. But most importantly, “Little” Sister Sarah sums it up best when she says, “I am thankful for Sherri, she makes me feel like a part of her family!”
- Northeast Indiana Big Brother of the Year: Trevor Loxton (Allen)
Nominees: Bradley Foster (Allen), Michael Aleman (Kosciusko), Ronald Newcomer (Noble), Brad Stiles (Allen), Adam Blakey (Allen)
Trevor and his “Little” Brother Kyle have been matched since 2006. Originally matched in the School Buddies program, they transitioned into the Community Based program in 2008. Throughout, Trevor has been a reliable, constant friend to Kyle. So much so, that Kyle recently said, “My Big Brother Trevor has been one of the most supportive and influential people in my life and I am thankful for him. He helped me get though elementary school, middle school and high school. I know we will continue to be friends – even after I graduate!”
- Northeast Indiana Big Couple of the Year: Scott & Michelle Rodenbeck (Allen)
Nominees: Eric & Lauren Harmison (Allen), Eric & Cheryl Stadtfeld (Noble), Julie Townsend & Francisco Tapia (Allen), Eric & Jenny Simerman (Allen)
Scott & Michelle have been “Bigs” for more than a decade, but matched with “Little” Brother Davion since 2009. They have enjoyed many family events together from picnics, lake trips to baseball games and just lounging at the house. They taught Davion to swim, offer encouragement and load him up with tons of family love before he goes back home. Davion has become part of their family and recently said that he is proud to be Scott & Michelle’s Little Brother “because they love and care about me – and I like that.”
- Northeast Indiana School Buddy of the Year: Jason Fritcha (Allen)
Nominees: Trina Hoy (Kosciusko), Roger Young (Adams), Betty Oakes (Wells), Ben Harrison (DeKalb), Doug Schenkel (Allen),
Jason & “Little” Brother Tristan have been matched since 2009. Jason and Tristan have built a great bond over the years, balancing school work and play time. Tristan tells us that he “feels like Jason understands me – and I can talk to him about anything.” Even though Tristan is moving on to middle school, the match will not end. Originally part of the School Buddy program, both Jason and Tristan have decided to transition into the Community Based program. The Volunteer Recognition Dinner was just their second event together held outside of the school!
- Northeast Indiana First Mentor of the Year: Chase Moyle (Allen)
Nominees: Malik Ojuri (Allen) and Caleb Norris (Allen)
Chase is a First Mentor at Canterbury High School and matched with his “Little” Brother Ahmad. First Mentors is a unique program where select high school students can become Big Brothers to help their local community. Chase and Ahmad connected through their love of sports and any activity where they could run and burn off energy. Chase was so incredibly good with this young man, at every event, he focused on helping Ahmad channel this energy and redirect aggressions – this helped Ahmad greatly. Ahmad recently said that he thinks of Chase “as his special Big Brother”.
- 40-Year Service Celebration: Buford Baker (Whitley). As part of a special celebration, Buford Baker was recognized for being a Big Brother for 40 years. In that time, he has won local Big Brother of the Year and School Buddy of the Year and continued mentoring multiple children.
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