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Submitted Photo More than 300 participants joined Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern New Mexico's Bowl for Kids' Sake last year.

The 19th annual Chaves County Bowl for Kids’ Sake fundraiser kicks off

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

The 19th annual Chaves County Bowl for Kids’ Sake (BFKS) takes place on April 27 at Center City Lanes. The event is the primary fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern New Mexico (BBBS SENM). The mentoring program is offered free of charge to the families served in Chaves County — all of the funding comes from donors.

BFKS offers everyone in the community a chance to positively impact a child’s life. Team captains are sought to recruit others into their bowling teams and raise funds for the children. Highlight is the day of the event. BBBS hosts a huge bowling party to celebrate the success of the fundraising, and to thank all the sponsors and individual team members who contributed to the success of the event. Two hours of bowling along with free food, refreshments and prizes await the teams. Last year, nearly 300 people attended the party.

The organization has a new logo and a new motto: “Together, we are Defenders of Potential.”

Imagine a child growing up in poverty, right in the heart of Chaves County. It may be that the parents are working two or more jobs, or a single parent is overwhelmed not being able to give the child attention. There are also darker scenarios. Parents who are on drugs or in jail and the child was put with a grandparent, or the child is put into foster care with many others. Safe in body, but alone in spirit — without somebody to look up to or to share dreams and hopes with. Nobody to play baseball with or even go to the movies with. This is where BBBS steps in.

While the program is free of charge for the participants, the organization behind it spends on average $1,500 per match, which includes a thorough background check of the future “Big,” as the volunteer is called, and during the year-long match, trained counselors check up with the family of the “Little” itself and the “Big.”

BBBS SENM has been providing one-to-one youth mentoring services in southeast New Mexico since 2000. They serve youth and families from ages 5 to 17 in Chaves, Curry, Eddy and Roosevelt counties. The regional headquarters is in Roswell operating its own program while supporting two satellite offices in Artesia and Clovis.

Behind every charitable organization are people working toward its success. Bill Wolf is the chief executive officer in Roswell’s headquarter. He has worked seven years at BBBS SENM.

Asked why he joined, Wolf said, “There were some changes going on in the organization and the board approached me. I was kind of semi-retired, and they wanted me to come in and see if I can help out. I was a sales manager for Christmas by Krebs. I never had any experience in this at all, but it turned out to be a really enjoyable time in my life. I’ve always been involved with kids and this is just an extension of that. I have two children and one grandchild. They don’t live here.”

Ginny Hatfield is the BFKS coordinator and has been part of the organization for seven years, as well. “I was on the board of directors with Tim Jennings — him and his brother started the program,” she said. “I ran into him one day, he said, ‘I need you.’ I was trying to open a children’s home at that time, so getting board experience was part of my plan. I ended up having a foster baby, so I quit the board and they called me about the Bowl for Kids’ Sake.”

Amanda Ware holds the strings together and is working right now on the new national system that has been put in place to connect all organizations and help with the smooth operation.

“I always worked in hospital or medical administration,” Ware said. “I was the human resource director for Roswell Regional before it became Lovelace and then I worked for Kymera — I was the human resource director there. My human resource aide, she started working here as the secretary. One day she called to see if I could come and help them get ready for an inspection. So I helped, got the files in order, got every thing ready for the human resources to get inspected. And the CEO at the time, he asked me if I wanted to consider taking a job.”

The timing was ideal as Ware needed to focus on her family. This was nine years ago. Ware had also been part of the program with her husband, who became a Big to a Little boy. “He was right in between my girls’ age (Ware has two daughters) and we were matched for five years until his parents moved away. I got so attached. For a while, every staff member had a little brother or sister.”

Asked how many matches were made last year, Ware said, “We served 181 matches. Those are both Bigs and Littles. Right now we have a waiting list. Also, those children who are sitting on our waiting list are the participants that we are trying to push through to find a match. We’re technically serving them as well. They just haven’t officially been matched. Right now we have 27 children on the Roswell waiting list. We do have more boys than girls. Mostly it is because when we have volunteers, they are 75 percent women who volunteer. It’s harder for us to appeal to men to volunteer their time. I’m not quite sure why. There is no age limit; there is a minimum age. They have to be at least 18 to volunteer in the community program and 16 to volunteer at the school-based program.”

The school-based program is only in place in Artesia and Dexter.

Asked what other criteria is necessary to become a Big, Wolf said, “All of our Bigs have to submit to a background screening. We do a layered background screening. We don’t have a requirement as far as education level or income level. Everything is open. We don’t discriminate in any kind of way. We try to match the volunteer with the Little who shares the same upbringing or environment to make that match strong so they have something in common, but other than passing the background screening, we ask for a minimum of commitment of one year.”

“Hopefully, next year, I am trying to set the goal at about 210 actual matches that we serve,” Ware said. “Sometimes, when we interview somebody to be a Big Brother/Big Sister, it can take a couple of months to be matched, because we have to do the background check and everybody needs three references. Then, the interview itself is about two and a half hours. Not everybody who applies gets in. It is a pretty thorough process.

“Whenever we interview the Littles, we do a parent and child interview and that can take up to three hours,” Ware said. “The parents are asked if they have preferences for the volunteers they would like for their child and when we interview the volunteers, we ask what preferences they would like to try to make that first match on common ground. Our adult interview is 16 pages long and child and the parent is like 25 pages long. We ask about their family upbringing. Who makes up their family unit growing up, to see if they have close bonds with their siblings, close bonds with their parents — we ask what they like to do, what their interests are. We specifically ask what they can give or offer a child. What they can uniquely teach a child — it could be organizational skills, social skills or self-esteem. Things like that. A lot of our volunteers, they’ve been through adversity in their life, so when we pair them, we do give them training before they are paired, and of course, throughout the life of the match. Some volunteers — especially some of our younger ones — they don’t have children at home. They don’t have any younger siblings, so we want to make sure that they are not coming across something they have not seen before or if they have any issues or questions. If they are having an issue bonding with their Little or opening up their Little to interact more, we guide them through that.”

“Everything that we do for a match is not cheap,” Wolf said. “All of our staff has to have a degree, we got to go and recruit Bigs — sometimes that costs money. We do advertising — we haven’t started advertising yet because our new system just got installed and we didn’t want to train them on the old system. In the next two weeks, we are going to start advertising. It will be for the Roswell coordinator here. And for someone to do the Dexter school program. The title of the position is enrollment match specialist. They have to have at least a bachelor’s degree and social services or related field. It would be nice if they speak Spanish, but not a requirement. Because we sometimes get parents that don’t speak English or kids who don’t speak English.”

For more information, email info@bbbssenm.org or call 575-627-2227.