My Little Sister is just like me!

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“How did they know?” my Little Sister and I asked  in unison on a recent trip to a bakery here in Boston. We were in search of the perfect macaroon.

It went under the radar for a few months and, bit by bit, my Little Sister, Iris, and I realized just how similar we were: from our life’s path down to (literally!) the way we look. Now nine months into our match, we wondered: How did they know?  Our JBBBS social worker made the perfect match, and she knew it before we did. I don’t know why we didn’t notice it right away; it just snuck up on us.

Iris and I took it really slowly at first. After years apart from the high school experience, it took me a while to really understand the challenges that a young adult in the high school environment faces. Between the pressures of getting into college, hanging out with the right crowd, and discovering those things about life that really make you tick…it’s a tough job being a high schooler.  But through visits to coffee shops, walks in the Common, an attempt at art, chick flicks and those countless other times we spent getting to know one another, her experience didn’t feel so far apart from mine. Slowly but surely, we realized we are both closeted nerds (humble brag: the evidence is in her A++ report card!), we love fashion, analyzing relationships, politics, and the world around us. We both have a serious travel bug. And, although she says she doesn’t like sports, I will one day win her over as a Celtics fan!

The gift in these moments has been our friendship, observing our growth and becoming bigger motivators to one other. How did they know? My Little Sister is just like me. I don’t know why the match happened the way it did, but I do know that our lives were meant to change and never be the same.

Hadas Peles is a volunteer in Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Children’s Program. Ready to meet your match? E-mail: volunteers@jbbbs.org to learn more about opportunities here.

Repetition, the soul of wit.

My outings with my Little Sister range from simple activities like frequenting the nearby school playground (one she’d never been to) to a drive to see a well-known musical performed at a faraway community theatre.

Recently, we tried renting a two-person kayak at a local state park. She was excited to give it a try but, at age six, after 20 minutes she asked, “Can we go back now?” A few weeks later I commented to my husband that I was fresh out of good ideas for things to do with my Little Sister, when he offered, “Take her boating again! At that age, repetition is the soul of wit. She will enjoy doing the same thing.” So I suggested it and, to her and her mom, the idea of doing the very same thing seemed the most natural in the world!

We went boating again. This time she was braver. She wanted to paddle out a little further, even get out and explore an island. She still wanted to stop after about 45 minutes, but I was so proud she seemed more comfortable.

We also both enjoy singing and, en route to activities together, I sometimes sing for her in the car. Inevitably, she remembers and, when we’re together again, she’ll say, “Can you sing that song for me?” Hopefully, we’ll keep creating our “Big/Little” song for a long time to come!

-S.G., Central Massachusetts: Children’s Program volunteer.

Why I Ride: Captain Cheatham!

I have had a love affair with the Ride ever since I first rode 100 miles with Harvey Lowell, JBBBS President/CEO, and the rest of the JBBBS crew back in 2008.  I have personally been an avid cyclist since 2002 and find that the combination of the mission and my passion for cycling is an unbeatable combination.

The Ride has many dimensions for me.  First and foremost is the opportunity it gives me to reach out and solicit.  I get to leverage my being a committed rider with being a Big Brother. It provides an opportunity for me to connect with my friends and engage them in the agency’s mission and the work that we do.  Asking for money is easy in this context and by so doing I am able to expand the supporter base for the agency.

Secondly, I find the energy around the Ride infectious. It creates a whole new social group which I value apart from the Ride.  Friendships have been made that persist and spill over into other areas in support of the agency.   As team captain over the past few years, it has been fun to put together training rides and to show people who have not ridden in many years that the 25-mile loop is not out of their reach. Together, we can complete the Ride.  The practice rides created confidence and a sense of comradery for all.

Finally, the day of the Ride is a real high.  The sendoff crowd is energizing, the water stops are colorful (and theme-based) and help introduce the riders to the other agencies that are involved and share the mission of serving children at risk.  My wife, Suzie, has gotten involved at our water stop and I enjoy seeing her there and then meeting up with everyone at the finish line.   I have also very much enjoyed accompanying other riders and encouraging them along the way.  All in all, an event not to be missed and keeping up the tradition year in and year out is an honor to be part of.

So come out and join our training sessions and ride even if the last time you rode was 20 years ago! You will find how very worthwhile it is. See you September 20.

Big Sister, Beth Heller, on summer with Grace.

Beth Heller is a volunteer in Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Children’s Program. She is matched to Grace. About her experience, she notes:

Since being matched four months ago, we’ve had a blast playing at the park, eating ice cream, pizza-making at Bertucci’s, going to movies,  shopping and eating out at Legacy Place. We share a love of fashion, jewelry, singing to the car radio, dancing, watching movies, and playing at the park. It’s been very fulfilling to do so many great activities  with such a fun, energetic and caring girl, and I’m so excited for the rest of our summer plans, especially Grace’s double-digit birthday later this month!

From the first time I met her, I was so impressed by her good manners and family-first mentality. She is a loving daughter and sister who cares deeply about others. I really noticed this when we went to Sugar Heaven for candy and she made sure to buy her dad and sister the treats they liked the most to surprise them when she got home!

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Grace and Beth.

As Grace’s Big Sister, I try to be consistent and show her that she can count on me: Another dependable and trustworthy person in her life. I am confident that she will come to me if she has any issues or needs to troubleshoot challenges she’s facing.  I strive to be a great friend, support system, and role model for her.

We are both very proud and thankful for the opportunity Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters has given us to get to know one another. We look forward to continuing our journey together as a match in the program!

A Friend 2 Friend Burger Adventure!

By guest blogger, Friend 2 Friend volunteer, Elaina Rivais.

When we were matched last November, I was nervous about finding fun things to do with my new friend, Lily. I wanted to get more creative than “dinner and a movie,” so we enjoyed a number of unique outings: a women’s basketball game, bowling, shopping. She even got to see my community band perform a dinner concert and meet some of my family, which meant a lot to me. Still, it turns out that having dinner together and seeing movies are some of the most fun times we enjoy as friends. We sing along to the radio while driving to the theatre and she picks movies I wouldn’t have chosen and might never have seen if I didn’t go with her. She’s also a great restaurant-picker. 


One night, she asked me if I’d heard of the restaurant Boston Burger Co. I had! In fact, I’d been there several times before. She had seen the restaurant on the show “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” and wanted to try their Mac Attack burger. The location I’d been to is right across the street from a Red Line stop in Somerville. I asked if she had ever ridden the T before, and she hadn’t. That’s when we started planning our adventure.

Lily and Elaina.

Lily and Elaina.

It was a couple of months later that the weather was nice enough to go and our schedules aligned. We rode the T all the way from Quincy, braving T stop construction, transferring from train, to bus, and back to train, grateful for accessible entrances and exits which made it simpler to transfer between platforms. Finally, we made it to Boston Burger, where we sat outside enjoying our gigantic hamburgers. Lily got the famous Mac Attack which, she said in between delicious bites, was “even better than (she) thought it would be!” We concluded our afternoon together with ice cream at J.P. Licks and departed for home: train-bus-train-riding pros! 

A long journey. An enjoyable day.

Now that we’ve ridden the T together, there’s no telling where we’ll go next! One thing’s for sure, we’ll be back to Somerville for some burgers and ice cream the next chance we get!

Why I Ride: Beth Cohen.

This is the fifth year I’ll be riding in the Rodman Ride for Kids, and I’m (still) excited about the challenge that’s once again upon me. 

Beth Cohen at the water stop, Rodman Ride 2013.

Beth Cohen at the water stop, Rodman Ride 2013.

I’ve been matched with my Little Sister for over 13 years. We officially “aged out” of the program a year or two ago, but we’re closer and better friends than ever. She’s a wonderful, intelligent person, pretty, mature and full of energy, friendly and, in general, someone I’m just so glad is in my life! These days, she’s in college studying to be an engineer, and I’m very proud of her.

Beth Cohen with her "Little" Sister.

Beth Cohen with her “Little” Sister.

 

I ride because it’s a great challenge for me, physically (I tackle the 100 miles!) and mentally. I ride because I’ve experienced firsthand the time and diligence the JBBBS organization takes to make strong, sustainable matches. I ride because I know what an incredible impact Big and Little Brothers and Sisters have on one another. Mostly, though, I ride so other children can experience the joy of Big/Little friendship for themselves.  

 

Beth Cohen is a member of JBBBS’ YoPro (Young Professionals) Leadership Board. Meet Beth and other JBBBS YoPros at this year’s Ride!

I may not ride, but… (with JBBBS/Rodman Ride volunteer, Lisa Kessel).

I’m a supporter both of the event and one of the agencies it benefits, JBBBS. Here’s why…

It was a beautiful day last September. The sun was shining brightly and you could feel the energy in the air as my friend, Meredith, and I approached the registration desk, ready to volunteer.  We slipped into our bright yellow Ride shirts and walked together with our noisemakers to the spot where we were assigned to cheer on hundreds of bikers as they sped past.

Meredith and I are matched in JBBBS’ Friend 2 Friend MAGIC Program, which serves adults with disabilities. We see each other once a month for a group activity with other matches. And while we enjoy that time with friends, we occasionally like to step outside the box and do something special together apart from the group.

Lisa Kessel (right) and Meredith at the Rodman Ride for Kids, 2013.

Lisa Kessel (right) and Meredith at the Rodman Ride for Kids, 2013.

As a non-rider, when I was approached about volunteering I was admittedly skeptical about whether I’d have fun. But, a supporter of JBBBS, I decided to give a few hours to the cause. And it was inspiring to be in the presence of others who support the agency with their time and money.

I was pleased to be able to spend that beautiful  afternoon with Meredith. Her eagerness to be involved, to help, was contagious. As we prepared PB&J’s for the riders and met others volunteers, I felt truly lucky to be part of such a great program. MAGIC  brought us together, and we’ve really bonded.

As we approach our two-year match anniversary, I  think back to all of the special events we have experienced. While I have fond recollections of big group activities and social events, I can honestly say that last year’s Rodman Ride was one of the more significant events that not only strengthened our relationship but also gave both of us a chance to celebrate a program we love.

Fact: Volunteering is good for you!

By: Hannah Fried-Tanzer, Intern: Emerging Jewish Leaders Program

JBBBS volunteers tout the way mentoring-friendships make them feel good. But it’s more than a feeling. It turns out that eating your fruits and vegetables is not the only path to a healthier you. Volunteering is proven to improve physical and mental health and professional lives, too.

Physical Benefits:

Feeling physically healthier: 76% of American adult volunteers report that volunteering has made them feel physically healthier. And it’s more than a feeling.

Less Stress: 78% say that volunteering reduces their level of stress. And acts of “do-gooding” help reduce blood pressure.

Mental Benefits:

Happier lives: An Americans’ Changing Lives survey found that those who volunteer report higher levels of happiness, life-satisfaction and self-esteem.

 Professional Benefits:

27% more likely to be employed: In July 2013, the Corporation for National and Community Service conducted a study and found that volunteers are 27% more likely to find a job after being out of work than non-volunteers. Volunteering keeps a job-seeker’s skills current while filling gaps in one’s résumé.

Do good by someone else. Do good by you. E-mail volunteers@jbbbs.org to learn more about how you can make a difference here.

Mission accomplished: Above the Clouds with my Little Brother.

About a year ago, I was matched to my Little Brother, Estuardo – and it’s been a blast ever since.  We have had a great time playing laser tag and mini-golf, going to the movies, grabbing ice cream and indoor rock-climbing. It’s truly been wonderful to do so many fun things with such an awesome teenager.  This past weekend, though, we got to do something very special (maybe more so when you consider Estuardo is interested in flight): We flew a small airplane with Above the Clouds, a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring joy and hope to children and teens through the wonder of small aircraft flight.

Our experience started at the Norwood Airport where a crowd of cheering supporters greeted us. We then met with the lead pilot to map out a flight path for the day, with the goal of flying over Gillett Stadium, followed by Estuardo’s house and then out over Boston Harbor.
After touring the control tower and inspecting the plane, we boarded the small four-seater, with Estuardo sitting in the co-pilot seat. We passed over Gillett and spotted Estuardo’s house from the air. Then, roughly 15 minutes in, Estuardo was handed control of the plane, guiding us over Newton and Brookline. The weather was great, so Logan Airport gave us permission to fly right over the Harbor, too, which provided an amazing view of the city. Once out of Boston airspace, Estuardo helped navigate the plane back to Norwood.

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It was an incredible experience provided by an amazing organization. We extend our most heartfelt appreciation to both Above the Clouds and Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters for the opportunity.

– Ben Greene, Big Brother

To learn more about Above the Clouds visit the organization online here.

My Brother, myself.

By guest blogger, Kenneth A. Turkewitz.

A few years ago, I did something a little unusual. I spoke to my little brother for the first time in about 16 years. Well, maybe it’s not quite as bad as it sounds.

The story starts when I was 22, just about to graduate from college. Following in the footsteps of my older brother, I signed up with the local Big Brothers Association. (I didn’t know at the time about Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters. Once I had been accepted as a Big Brother, I wasn’t prepared to go back to square one to start over with JBBBS.)

I met Bobby when he was seven years old. As with some Little Brothers, there had been no steady adult male role model in Bobby’s life. Bobby and I went to movies and on short outings. It felt a little awkward at first. I couldn’t always figure out what to talk about. I’m sure he felt the same way. Where was that natural flow we were supposed to have?

As time went on, we got a little closer. After two years of being matched with Bobby, I went on a year-long overseas assignment, and so Big Brothers terminated our “official” relationship. Bobby and I stayed in touch, but it wasn’t the same as being there. Later, I married and started a family of my own. Bobby and his family attended the wedding, and Bobby and I continued to do a few things together.

Eventually, our lives got very busy and we started seeing less of each other. I made one brief visit to his home when I was in his neighborhood. Bobby was about 21 at the time and getting ready to go abroad with the Air Force. I couldn’t believe that I was looking up at my Little Brother, who was now a man.

Over the years, I would occasionally make unsuccessful attempts to track him down. (His family moved, and he has a fairly common last name. This made the search a little difficult.) Three years ago, though, an Internet search included a telephone number. One thing led to another, and I eventually had a long conversation with, first, his mother, and, later, Bobby himself.

Bobby now owns a successful computer business, is recently married, and is still with the Air Force Reserves. I was delighted at how successful and grown-up he had become. I got great satisfaction in learning his inspiration for being in the computer business was using (well, playing on) a Mac SE that I had at home in the mid-80s. I’d like to think that I had something to do with his direction and with the man that he’s grown up to be.

I always knew that the decision to become a Big Brother was a good one. But now I know exactly how good it was.

Ken Turkewitz is the President of the New England Region of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs. He is a recently-accepted and soon-to-be-matched Big Brother with Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Boston.