An article in the Journal of Community Psychology states “youth with natural and volunteer mentors have been found to be more likely to graduate from high school and attend college and less likely to take part in delinquent problem behaviors”.
When volunteer, Linda Cooper, enrolled with the Greater St. Cloud Area Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) over four years ago she expressed interest in volunteering in a wide variety of activities. Some of these areas included: animal care, face painting, disaster services, crafts, gardening, photography, computer tutor, quilting, theatrical production and more! One area of interest which was naturally a good fit for this retired teacher was working with youth. While RSVP partners with nearly 50 organizations who support children in our community, Linda chose to apply to be a volunteer mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota (BBBS).
Linda has been mentoring a 13 year old girl as a “Big Sister” for about a year and a half spending more than 100 hours with her “Little Sister”. Linda says this volunteer position was a perfect fit for her and states “I love kids and she [Linda’s Little Sister] is really a sweetheart”. Linda says some of their favorite things to do together are play bingo, go to movies and other fun activities. However, Linda says her most valued outings with her Little Sister are attending education, college and career fairs. Linda relishes the opportunity of exposing her Little Sister to the possibility of higher education and future careers. Linda is thrilled to be a guiding role model in this young lady’s life.
The staff at BBBS also feel Linda is making a positive impact in our community. Ann Matvick, Program Director at BBBS, says “I have observed her [Linda Cooper] and her Little Sister at activities and have always found Linda to be very respectful of her Little Sister’s opinions and beliefs, patient, kind and encouraging.”
Linda expressed that while she sees the benefit she provides to her Little Sister, being a volunteer brings her so much joy and “keeps her going” as well. Linda says “volunteering is good for me. I get the benefit from being the volunteer”. Many studies have confirmed the link between volunteering and healthy aging; proving what Linda says is true. For example, a Brown University study shows people who volunteer tend to live seven years longer than their counterparts who do not volunteer. Furthermore, a Harvard study found people over age 50 who volunteer on a regular basis are less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers.
When asked if others should consider volunteering as a “Big Brother” or “Big Sister” Linda says “Definitely. Volunteering gives me a good feeling in my heart that I am doing the right thing and I am making a difference.”
BBBS greatly values their volunteer mentors saying “Our volunteers are the backbone of the BBBS mission. Without them, we would not have a program. Our mentors generously give their time to a child facing adversity and help navigate them on a path towards a brighter, more promising future. We are truly grateful for their commitment to BBBS and are confident they will have a lasting impact on the lives of their Little as well as the future of our community.”
Linda exclaims “volunteering brings me sunshine!” If you would like to add some sunshine to your life, RSVP would love to guide you to the perfect fit for your volunteer experience! Please contact the RSVP office at (320)255-7295 or visit their website at www.ci.stcloud.mn.us/RSVP for more information!