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GO KIDS Articles

Making a difference one lunch at a time

Abilene Reporter-News
Posted May 13, 2010 at 3:22 p.m.

More than 80 Big Brothers Big Sisters supporters gathered in Abilene to acknowledge seven volunteers who share a common bond. They are all mentors.

For two hours Big Brothers Big Sisters guests mingled over hors d’oeuvres and shared their personal accounts of how being a mentor has made a difference in both their life and the child they are mentoring.

In all, seven awards were given to mentors who made an incredible impact on a child’s life.

Leon Whaley was one of the seven mentors recognized that day.

“I thank God, and Big Brothers Big Sisters, especially for something I enjoy doing,” said Whaley. “Because kids are really my heart; we’ve lost many in the shuffle and they need a male or female figure to guide them. They need a more of a ‘yes you can,’ a more positive reaction toward them.”

Whaley has been a pastor at Mount Mariah Baptist Church for more than five years, and throughout his many years of being a minister he has always focused on creating a “yes you can” attitude with the children in the community.

Before his involvement with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Whaley began a mentoring program for children at one of his former churches. He also takes time every month to visit young men who have been incarcerated. Whaley also visits his Little, Bryan, once a week at school during lunch through the Big Brothers Big Sisters Lunch Buddy program.

The Lunch Buddy program enables adults 18 and older to create a new friendship with a child in elementary school or middle school. The matches visit once a week, for 25 minutes during the child’s lunch time. Each week the friendship grows and for many Bigs they are able to tell a few jokes and divulge helpful advice.

“We’re trying to get our young men and women to move on up,” said Whaley.

“My father worked for a city in gang prevention. I received a first hand look to see where the generation was heading. They don’t want to be the drug addicts or be the ones walking up and down the street, but it just happens.”

Whaley believes it’s these conversations at the lunch room or dinner table that make a lasting difference in a child’s future.

“It’s important, because even if a child has a father, not every family is able to sit down with each other during a meal and actually have a conversation,” said Whaley. “I always told parents that we weren’t trying to take over the roll. Just fill in some minor pieces.”

Whaley and his Little have been matched for more than four years and Whaley still looks forward to their visits.

“He has come a long ways,” said Whaley. “Now he looks for me when I enter the lunch room. It’s really neat to see his eyes light up when I come in to talk to him.”