At, left, ‘Big’ Suzie Havemann participates in the BBBS Lunch Buddy Program with her ‘Little’ Alisabela (Bella) Montoya. Courtesy photo
At right, third-year BBBS Board of Directors Co-Chair Kelly Myers welcomes volunteers. Courtesy photo
Two local RE/MAX Real Estate Associate Brokers, Kelly Myers and Suzie Havemann, are part of the positive impact Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Mountain Region is making in the lives of many youngsters and their families.
Myers, a third-year co-chair of the BBBS Los Alamos/Rio Arriba Regional Board of Directors, has been with BBBS since 2008, and fondly remembers the adults in her life who shaped her future.
“I look back to those adults in my own life who trained me, taught me, cared for me and knowing they would never abandon me, absolutely formed me into the adult I am today,” Myers said. “As a mother and past teacher, I don’t think anything is more important than strong, caring adults mentoring kids. My own children are grown, so my family obligations are fewer. I’ve always valued children and their contribution to our world and since I left teaching in 2005, I felt a duty to continue supporting kids.”
Havemann is one of 49 ‘Bigs’ who are mentoring kids in Los Alamos and has been a “Big” to her “Little”, Alisabela (Bella) Montoya, since 2014.
“We have lunch together once a week, we enjoy talking, playing games, drawing, making artwork for each other, doing word games and going to special events like concerts.” Havemann said. “This is simply one of the most rewarding activities I participate in each week. One time I was five minutes late and my ‘little sis’ came running from the playground so very happy to see me! She was so worried I wasn’t coming that day. It warmed my heart and reminded me how important this time is to her.”
Havemann explained that her time with Bella helps her keep things in perspective. Some kids need a little lift every now and then and it’s to our community’s benefit to fill those gaps when possible, she said.
“I truly believe my “Little Sis” enjoys the time being with an adult who is not there to enforce, evaluate or teach … that said, I can’t help providing a few little lessons here and there about courtesy, healthy eating habits, being confident and thinking,” Havemann said. “She finds our time enjoyable and I find it invaluable … Being with young people is good for the soul!”
Anti-Bully Walk from left, BBBS Regional Director Dawn Brown, Rio Arriba Board Member Rhonda Montoya, Los Alamos Board Member Art Brown, Los Alamos Big Brother Iain May, Little Brother Ben Smith and Los Alamos Board Member Kelly Myers. Courtesy photo
Myers explains that for more than a century, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been helping change kid’s perspectives and giving them opportunities to reach their potential.
“The Board is amazing,” Myers said. “I tremendously respect the dedicated people on our regional board and I am in awe of the professional staff who work diligently for kids every day. We work all year long to raise funds to cover the cost of making “Matches” – bringing together the Big (adult) and the Little (child/teen).”
Myers explained that the Board raises funds in several ways.
“We organize gatherings in Espanola and Los Alamos to tell folks about things BBBS is doing, we help organize the annual Bowl For Kids’ Sake and the Golf Tournament, participate in community events to get the word out about the BBBS mission and we attend an annual retreat with other Board members in the Mountain Region,” she said. “Big Brothers Big Sisters is dedicated to one thing only and that is bringing caring role models into the lives of children. That’s all we do and we do it very well.”
Kendra Henning, owner and qualifying broker of RE/MAX of Los Alamos, is proud of all her Realtors and their many contributions to the community.
“RE/MAX Realtors are also your neighbors.” Henning said. “We support our community by being involved with many local organizations. Kelly and Suzie are very committed to BBBS and they demonstrate their commitment to the wellbeing and futures of kids in our community through fundraising and leadership roles, as well as being on the Board and being a Big!”
Dawn Brown, regional director of Los Alamos and Rio Arriba Counties recruits ‘Bigs’ and ‘Littles’ and is usually the first contact a new ‘Big’ or ‘Little’ has with BBBS. Brown explains that the positive interaction BBBS receives from Board members like Myers, and ‘Bigs’ like Havemann, adds a strong layer of support for the staff, the community and for the ‘matches’.
Anyone interested in hearing more about becoming a Los Alamos Board member can contact Brown.
“Our board is a dedicated group of nine individuals who do what they do so that we can change the lives of children for the better. Our Board is a cohesive team working to enrich the lives of our youth who may not otherwise have positive role models and life experiences. Our ‘Bigs’ (mentors), like Suzie, come to us in a variety of ways,” Brown said. “Potential mentors might see an ad on television or read a news article about us, but referrals and word-of-mouth are our biggest assets! Many Big Brothers and Big Sisters are referred to us by current and former ‘Bigs’, Board members, community agencies such as the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board and LAPS teachers and counselors. We also receive ‘Bigs’ through our Big Brothers Big Sisters Mountain Region website. Once they complete the online form, we give them a call.”
Big Brothers and ‘Littles’ Big Sisters and ‘Littles’ from Los Alamos, Rio Arriba and Santa Fe participate in a Community Based activity in March 2014 at Puye Cliffs. Courtesy photo
Kenna Chavarria, Lead Program Specialist / Native American Liaison enrolls the ‘Bigs’ and the ‘Littles’ into the program. Chavarria explains that there are two kinds of programs available to adults who would like to be a ‘Big,’ the School Based Program (Lunch Buddy) and the Community Based Program.
The volunteer goes through a complete background check, then training, prior to being matched with a ‘Little’ to ensure safety and a good fit. Then, Chavarria introduces the ‘Big’, ‘Little’ and the parent during a Match Meeting. Once the Match Meeting occurs, the ‘Big’ and ‘Little’ meet again on their own. Chavarria supports the match by checking in with everyone once a month and is available anytime.
“Currently, eight elementary schools in the Los Alamos/Rio Arriba Region participate in the Lunch Buddy Program,” Chavarria said. “There are three in Los Alamos, two in White Rock, one in Alcalde, one in Pojoaque and one in Espanola. We ask the ‘Bigs’ who are in the Lunch Buddy Program for a one-year commitment to meet with their ‘Little’ once a week during their lunch period. Like Suzie does, we want the ‘Big’ and the ‘Little’ to play games, make art and crafts, read and talk.”
The ‘Bigs’ who are in the Community Based Program are also asked to make a one-year commitment to meet with their ‘Little’ a couple of times a month for a total of 4-8 hours, she said, and they get together and do things out in the community or at home.
“In 2014, we served 66 kids in Los Alamos in our School and Community Based Programs, and our goal is to serve 73 kids in Los Alamos in 2015,” Chavarria said. “We need more ‘Bigs’ because we have 7 kids in Los Alamos and White Rock who are waiting to be matched with a mentor.”
BBBS ‘Bigs’ and ‘Littles’ in a Los Alamos Parade in 2013, from left, Regional Director Dawn Brown, ‘Big Sister’ Mary Alei and her ‘Little’ Trinity McCloskey, ‘Little’ Emerson Schreiber with ‘Big’ Dawn Summers, Board Member Art Brown and Lead Program Specialist Kenna Chavarria. Courtesy photo
Big Brother and Big Sister Needs In Los Alamos and White Rock:
- 2 Los Alamos boys waiting for Community Based Big Brothers;
- 1 Chamisa boy waiting for a School Based Big Brother;
- 1 Chamisa girl waiting for a School Based Big Sister;
- 1 Aspen boy waiting for a School Based Big Brother or Big Sister; and
- 2 Mountain boys waiting for School Based Big Brothers.
Other Opportunities To Help Include participating in Bowl For Kids’ Sake:
- The 32nd annual Bowl for Kids’ Sake fundraiser is 2 p.m., April 19;
- Teams consist of five bowlers and each team member raises $100 for a team goal of $500;
- Teams get together and bowl at the Big Rock Bowling Center in Espanola. To put a team together, contact Dawn Brown at 505.614.4231 or visit www.bbbsmountainregion.org/bfks; and
- Any donations or gifts are appreciated and will be given away as prizes. Contact Dawn Brown at 505.614.4231 to donate.
Sponsors also are needed. Contact Dawn Brown at 505.614.4231.