Big Brothers Big Sisters Hires Program Specialist

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Ginger Sparks is a "big," in the lingo of Big Brothers Big Sisters, getting ready to experience the magic of being matched with a "little."

Bigs are the adult mentors of children or littles, ages 6 through 15, in the organization's programs.

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Ginger Sparks visits with Chris Mitchell, one of the "littles" in the Payson Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

There are currently 16 children in Payson who are in need of an adult in their life, someone who will make a time commitment to play a game or just hang out.

Beyond signing up to be a big, as of January, Sparks is the new program specialist for BBBS in Northern Gila County.

The Payson Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter has two programs -- a site-based Lunch Buddies program and the community-based program.

The site-based Lunch Buddies program, held during the lunch hour at Julia Randall Elementary School, is for adults who want to make a difference but do not have much time.

Littles in the Lunch Buddies program are identified by teachers.

Bigs are asked to commit to their little for at least one school year and meet two to four times each month.

Adults in the community-based program spend a few times each month doing things together -- watch a movie, play sports, garden -- any activity they both enjoy.

Littles in this program can be referred by an adult family member.

Interested volunteers must complete an enrollment form, give three references, are fingerprinted and must have a clean federal background check. The process may take four to six weeks.

Sparks' job is to determine a suitable match and provide support and guidance through the BBBS experience.

"That is one of the things that appealed to me about the job," she said. "Trying to figure out who might work well together and give them a couple of choices."

As a retired counselor and Rim Country Middle School teacher 21 years, Sparks brings enthusiasm to her new part time position.

"A friend at the school district office put me and BBBS director Robert Henley in touch about the job. I was so excited I sent her flowers.

"Educators and BBBS have a shared goal of happy little people growing into happy big people."

You may not always see the difference you are making in someone's life right away.

But Sparks has had children she has taught or counseled during her time with the Payson school district who, at the time, did not think they would make it, but years later they came back to see her.

"It's neat to see children come back with the good families and relationships they might not have had as a child," she said.

These days, Big Brothers Big Sisters does not have a formal office.

That suits Sparks just fine.

She is willing to meet prospective volunteers in her home, their homes or in a neutral location.

Parents who wish to sign up their child, or adults who wish to volunteer, may contact Sparks at (928) 468-8375 or e-mail gsparks@bbbsaz.org.

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