story and photos by Lauren Leatherby, special to The City Wire
ROGERS — About 30 people gathered at the Rogers home of Kim and Ginger Campbell Thursday evening (July 26) to spread the word about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Arkansas.
The night was an intimate, invite-only get-together among neighbors and friends with the intent of educating more Benton County residents about the organization’s work across Northwest Arkansas.
After mingling over light appetizers, guests came together in the Campbells’ living room to hear the personal experiences of local “bigs”, including host Kim Campbell, Jeff Smith, Marty Englander and the Joe and Kathy Farnan family.
For nearly 100 years, the national organization has provided children facing adversity with one-on-one mentoring from adult volunteers with the the mission of changing the children’s lives for the best.
“We know that by putting a caring adult into their life, we are going to make their life better,” said Erin Rongers, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Arkansas.
Of the children who participate in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Arkansas program, more than 70 percent live in poverty and 29 percent have an incarcerated parent, Rongers said.
While the program is designed to provide emotional support for the kids who need it most, sometimes it’s the bigs who learns more.
“I figured my little brother would grow and change a lot during our time together, but I didn’t realize how much of an impact he was going to have on my life, too,” said Jeff Smith, who has served as a big brother for the last nine years. “I’ve really grown as a person — perhaps even matured a bit since then. I’ve become more tolerant and patient. I cherish our time together, whether talking about life over chips and salsa at our favorite Mexican restaurant, La Huerta, or beating him in bowling.”
There are currently nearly 35 “littles” on the waiting list for Benton County that have been approved for the program and are merely waiting on a match, Rongers said.
Organizers asked for no donations or pledges, but merely requested that guests consider what they might be able to do for the program, whether financially supporting a match, serving as a big, or recommending the program to a friend. It costs approximately $1,000 to create and supervise a new match for one year, which includes the cost of a background check on volunteers.