Today I Meet My Little Sister

Today I meet my little sister (aka my first blind date) – by Becky Gray, Executive Director at must! charities

becky_grayI’ve been anxious about this day for quite some time. Not because I’m second-guessing the idea of giving back. I am all about giving back, giving of myself to help others – it’s in my blood.

My anxiety/excitement lies in the unknown. It lies deep within, as I am about to embark on a commitment into someone’s life for the minimum of the next year… and hopefully for a lifetime. This is someone I know little about, but it feels right (regardless that the information I know about her was only given in a 15 minute phone conversation). I’m nervous – not if she will be a good fit for me, but questioning if she will like me and want to spend time with me? I wonder now, “will I be a good fit for what she wants?”

It was all so exciting when I was going through the application paperwork – which seems like eons ago (although really it was only months ago). Then the waiting game began, as they wanted to make sure they had the perfect match for me. I sat for months questioning, “will they find a match for me?” And “is there someone out there who will benefit from me investing in them?”. I waited and prayed for the perfect match. Time passed and I actually stopped thinking about it.

Months went by and then I got an email letting me know they think they found me a little. When I got the call from #bigbrothersbigsisters and they described this young girl to me, it seemed like a perfect match. She loves to do crafty things. She loves fashion. She loves the outdoors and playing in the water. She loves adventure AND she loves to talk and is chatty (for those of you who know me – you are probably smiling right now as you read these descriptions).

So, today is the day I meet my little. It’s the day I put myself out there and make myself vulnerable to a little soul who is seeking a mentor like me. I am excited beyond belief, and a bit nervous too (it’s like a blind date – and I never even went on a blind date!) So here goes… my first official “blind date” (aka my match meeting).

I can’t wait to share the rest of the journey with you… stay tuned!

Madyson’s Success Story – Boys and Girls Club

The following story was shared with us by The Boys & Girls Club of Northern San Luis Obispo County:

Madyson’s Story ~

We were first approached by Madyson’s grandmother in Spring of 2013, desperate to find a place for her 4 year-old granddaughter to spend the summer. Her first question was “What do you do when a child runs away?” Further discussion with the family helped us understand that Madyson would need some special attention. Her young age, behavioral issues, and lack of experience with a structured program were all cause for concern. Nonetheless, we were determined to give Madyson a chance to find her place at the Boys and Girls Club.

madyson picEarly on Madyson struggled with following directions, sitting for organized group activities, and focusing on summer learning activities. She had difficulty keeping her hands to herself and her method of communicating with other members was yelling and grabbing. Hiding under tables and be- hind doors was frequent when she did not want to participate in our programs or did not get her way, and she received several disciplinary write-ups during her first months.

Over several months staff worked with her on proper ways of communicating, using words to explain how she feels and get her needs met. We also worked with her on socialization and provided individualized help to accommodate her learning style. It became apparent that Madyson loves to be a helper and we used this framework to help her understand and follow club rules. Madyson is now a

wonderful club member who participates fully in classes, Power Hour, and group activities. She shows up with a huge smile and willingly engages with others.

For the 2014-2015 school year, Madyson has not re- ceived a single disciplinary write-up and, in fact, was honored as Youth of the Month for January 2015.

Madyson’s mother, Jessica, is a single mom, living and working in Atascadero. She felt that Madyson thrived at the Paso Summer camp in 2013, so she has continued to bring Madyson to the after-school program on a daily basis. Jessica leaves work at 2:30 to bring Madyson from her school to the Club and returns at 6:00 to pick her up. Last year Madyson was able to attend the summer program in Atascadero. Jessica says that an Atascadero after-school program would be “an answer to her prayers” and “that her employer would be thrilled as well.”

Giving Back – Cooper and Chase

My kids know what I do for work….I think.  They recognize the must! logo, they hear me talk about projects, they know we do good work.  But do they?  This summer, I decided it was time to weave more philanthropy and volunteerism into their beach and pool days.  Each Thursday, we ride our bikes to Georgia Brown and help deliver meals for the Food Bank’s Summer Food Program.

Cooper and ChaseDuring the school year 16,000 of the children in our county participate in the Free or Reduced Priced School Meals program at school, which provides them with a meal during the day. Unfortunately, during the summer break these children no longer have access to these meals. The Food Bank’s program seeks to bridge that gap.

We’ve settled into a routine of taking the sign out to the sidewalk, pulling milks out based on the expiration date, figuring out the sticky latch of the fridge, testing food temperatures, and getting our buffet lined out.  Kids like choices.  So Chase, our 6-year old, holds one of each lunch out for each child and cheerfully reports back to us that day’s most popular choices.  Mostly, the kiddos like the sandwich meals.  But some prefer the salads (gasp).  All love the chocolate milk and don’t get me started on the Cheez-Its!

Cooper, our 8-year old, is less talkative than Chase with the kids. Instead opting to make pyramids with the milk cartons and ensuring that each kid who grabs a regular milk knows there is a chocolate milk alternative!  He is also the master cart pusher, weaving his way up the campus hill to get the milks in and out each day.

FullSizeRender-1Each recognizes some of the regular families that come down, know if we’ve missed a family and should wait a bit longer before packing up, and neither no longer ask when it’s time to eat or if they can play Minecraft.  That is progress.

I’m not sure they get it.  Yet.  But they do seem a tad bit more grateful.  And I think they see there is no difference between kids who need an extra meal and themselves – the best is when they all sit on the benches looking at a lego guy or hit each others hats off heads or make bubbles in their milk.  Kids are just kids. Period.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Laura at or 805.835.6392

Happy Match Story – Malory & Denise

Happy Match Story, shared by Big Brothers Big Sisters…

Malory lives with her grandfather’s ex-wife, the only person in her extended family who was able and willing to offer her a foster home when her biological parents were arrested for abuse and neglect. The 67 year old retired office worker wasn’t expecting to raise a child and knew she’d need help keeping up with this energetic and emotional 9-year old.

Malory and Denise 2010 (2)At first, Big Sister Denise, a self-described “child-at-heart”, was delighted to build blanket forts, decorate cupcakes and cut out paper dolls with her new Little Sister as well as take her to places like the Children’s Museum and the Atascadero Zoo. Five years later, Malory has outgrown the “little kid stuff” they used to do together, but she hasn’t outgrown their friend ship. Denise says, “her favorite thing to do is just get in the car and go for a drive with me. We talk and talk. I don’t think there is anything in her life she doesn’t tell me about…school , friends, drugs, romance, drama, college plans, learning to drive…you name it.  She knows she doesn’t want to make the same mistakes her parents made in their young adult-hood, and she knows I’ll always be here to help her.”