Volunteer organization spreading to Shelby County

By AMY GORDON / Staff Writer

When Kim Egan of Pelham goes to see her 11-year-old little sister, Candace, at school, the two usually grab some lunch or just sit outside, reading books, drawing pictures and playing games. Usually, their time is up before they even know it.

Once Kim leaves, though, she won’t see Candace again for another week. That’s because the two are not biologically related, but were brought together through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Birmingham.

The two were matched through Big Brothers Big Sisters’ school-based program, where volunteer teenagers and adults spend an hour a week with their charges at school.

Egan, who has a degree in social work from the University of Montevallo, began working for Big Brothers Big Sisters upon graduation in 2000. Because of family ties-she is married with two boys, ages 2 and 4-Egan didn’t become a big sister until a year ago, when her boys had grown up a little.

“After I had my children, I still had that need. I wanted to be a big sister, and I wanted a girl,” she said.

Candace, who lives in Jefferson County, was recommended for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program by an educator who thought she needed a role model. Egan has slowly met with success fulfilling that role.

“She feels more comfortable talking to me about things going on in her life now,” Egan said. “She was very shy to begin with, but she realized I was coming back.”

Egan is currently trying to find another child to mentor through the Big Brothers Big Sisters community program here in Shelby County, but it’s difficult for volunteers to be matched with children in the county, she said.

“We don’t have near enough children or schools involved in Shelby County,” she said.

In the community program, volunteers are expected to spend six to 10 hours with kids a month. Volunteers in the community program must be 18 years old with car insurance, provide references and pass a background check.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is trying to expand awareness in Shelby County, said events coordinator Emily Peterson. To that end, the organization is hosting the 2008 Night Run and Fun at Regions Park on Saturday. The event includes a four-mile run at 6 p.m. and then an after-party for the community.

Peterson said Big Brothers Big Sisters already works with Montevallo Middle School, Montevallo Elementary and Creek View Elementary within the county, but the program wants more involvement.

“We have a few matches in Shelby County, but we have several volunteers waiting to be matched,” she said.

Egan said she will keep up with Candace over the summer through postcards and phone conversations and then will continue the mentorship in the fall.

“She’s a very good kid, but I think that because of working with me over the past year, she’s become more open and more self-confident.” Egan said. “You don’t have to be a superhero to be a role model.”