Giving a little means big rewards

Published 11:07 pm Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kiara, an 11-year-old at Moccasin Elementary School, laughs with her mentor, Alice Kring, who is a volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters. (Daily Star photo/AARON MUELLER)

BUCHANAN — It’s amazing how quickly children can make friends.

That was on display Wednesday at the kickoff of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Lunch Buddies program at Moccasin Elementary in Buchanan. Four students met their adult mentors, and it wasn’t long before they were chatting and laughing away.

The “bigs” and “littles” talked about their families, pets and Christmas gifts during the half-hour lunch break.

Christina Frank, a Big Brothers Big Sisters case worker, said the Lunch Buddies program has been used in schools across Berrien and Cass counties for several years but this is the first time it has taken place at Moccasin Elementary. The adults and students will meet once a week for lunch.

“It’s a great way to volunteer, because it’s very minimal commitment,” she said. “It’s a half-hour per week. But it’s a big impact for such a small amount of time.”

Leanne Feldman, a retired Buchanan school teacher, decided to volunteer for the program because she saw the need when she was teaching.

“Children just want somebody to talk to,” she said. “I don’t see this as a mentoring program but a friendship.”

Feldman brought friendship bracelets for her “little,” Abby.

“It looks like broccoli,” Abby said, describing the shape of the brightly colored, stretchy bracelet.

Alice Kring, another of the volunteers, said she saw a report that found children who have mentors have higher test scores and get better grades in school.

“We want her to succeed the best she can, so maybe I can help,” Kring said about her “little,” Kiara.

The program, which is funded by a grant from the Michigan Gateway Community Foundation, is looking for more volunteers.

“There is definitely a need for this service,” Frank said, adding there are a number of students at the school she is hoping to match with a mentor soon.

For more information on the program or to find out how to volunteer, contact Christina Frank at the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Berrien and Cass County office at (269) 684-1100.

Editor’s note: The Lunch Buddies’ last names were not released.