Big Sister and Lunch Buddy Jami Garcia stopped in to check on her Little Sister and Lunch Buddy Riley at Eastside School, Friday. (Daily Star photo/JESSICA SIEFF)
Big Sister and Lunch Buddy Jami Garcia stopped in to check on her Little Sister and Lunch Buddy Riley at Eastside School, Friday. (Daily Star photo/JESSICA SIEFF)

Archived Story

Be part of a buddy system

Published 6:00am Saturday, November 21, 2009

Niles Daily Star

When it comes to giving, the possibilities are endless.

There’s food and clothing, gifts of toys and keepsakes and the latest technological gadgets.

And then there is what some children around Niles might believe is the most important gift – the gift of time.

In essence, that is exactly what each and every Big Brother or Big Sister gives to their little counterparts when they take part in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Lunch Buddy Program.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Berrien and Cass is putting the call out to volunteers in the area to take part in the program at Eastside School in Niles.

“Lunch Buddies meet with their protegees (mentees) one day per week during the lunch hour to help build the child’s self esteem and to encourage him or her to do well in school,” said Kathy Rossow, executive director of the organization.

Talk to Jami Garcia, a Big Sister and Lunch Buddy at Eastside for two years now, and it seems that the mentees aren’t the only ones to reap the rewards of the program.

“I didn’t even know anything about it,” Garcia said as she stood in the hallway at Eastside on Friday, waiting for her Lunch Buddy, Riley.

“I love it,” she said. “It makes me so happy to come here and make a little girl happy.”
When Garcia makes her weekly visit to Eastside on her lunch hour, she brings lunch along for Riley as well. Riley’s favorite?

“Taco Bell,” she said.

By now, Garcia knows what to bring her Lunch Buddy by heart.

The two share 35 minutes together, often meeting in the school’s music room, and Garcia said she takes that time to catch up with Riley and ask about her week or what she did over the weekend.

The two will also go over any homework Riley might have, spend time reading to each other, draw or do crafts.

“It’s a wonderful program,” Garcia said.

The organization is actively seeking volunteers to take part in the program, the school currently hosts six Big Brothers or Sisters who come in, once a week, on their lunch – a gift that not only shows dedication, as so many more people struggle with hectic and busy schedules – but keeps on giving.

“I always make time for this though,” Garcia said. “Even if I’m really busy I’ve got to see my Lunch Buddy once a week.”

Children included in the program range between ages six and 11. Mentors are asked to make a one-school-year commitment to the program, with the option of continuing to mentor the same child for a second year.

For more information about how to apply, call (269) 684-1100 or e-mail

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