Changing Lives, One Relationship at a Time
One thousand children are waiting to be matched with a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of South Texas. Some will remain on the list for years. 14-year-old Eric V. Lewis, Jr. was once among that number. Registered at age 5 by his single mother, Scharlena, he waited four years until he was paired with his mentor, Marcus Green, in a relationship that continues to this day.
“You don’t plan to be divorced. The child didn’t ask to be involved in that,” Scharlena said. “We want our children’s lives to be as normal and happy as possible. If they don’t have a father in their life, it is important to have another man they can trust and respect.”
BBBS has been invaluable to the Lewis family, she said. And Eric has thrived, not just in his time spent with his mentor, but also because of his relationship with others in the organization, including CEO Denise Barkhurst and COO Armen Babajanian. Eric was selected to serve as spokes Little for BBBS– and in that role appears throughout San Antonio, at donation presentations, recruitment events, even television or radio commercials. Eric is well spoken and mature beyond his years. Anyone acquainted with him cannot help but be impressed.
For the past three years, Eric has also served on the organization’s board providing input from a Little’s, and a teen’s, perspective. Recently BBBS held its main fundraising campaign, Bowl for Kids Sake, which Eric said grossed $113,000. Its success inspired him to suggest expanding the event to high school groups.
Eric has high praise for his Big Brother, “Marcus and I have been partnered for six years. We go all over town and try to get together once a month. He is a positive influence in my life. He talks to me about values and life issues – and then we eat chicken wings and watch college football.” Eric claims the Oregon Ducks as his favorite team.
“They (BBBS) took an interest in my son and were there for us,” Scharlena added. “There is no greater joy in this world that to know your child is safe and happy.”
She serves on the parent advisory council, acclimating those new or prospective. Safety is a top priority for the organization, she stressed.
“They take the time to do reference checks, background checks, finger prints, credit,” she said. “It is important to them that your child will be safe and have someone mentor them in a one-on-one relationship in a positive way.”
She also mentioned the Magic While You Wait activities, group trips to laser tag, Spurs games or miniature golf, which are planned by BBBS of South Texas for those children on the wait list. “It’s a good consolation while your child is waiting for their mentor – it lets your child participate in activities you would not be able to afford to give them a taste of what its like, and it helps them know they have not been forgotten while they wait.”
In his spare time, Eric, a freshman at MacArthur High School, swims competitively on the school’s swim team and through Alamo Area Aquatics Club. He hopes to qualify as an Olympic swimmer someday, he said. He also is very active in his church, Bethany Missionary Baptist, where he manages all the audiovisual tools for the service and preaches to community youth.
“I have gotten more than I can ever possibly give because of the joy they bring to my son,” Scharlena said. “I recommend BBBS for any single parent. I could not imagine what our life would be without them.” She encourages potential volunteers or donors to contact Bigmentor.org or call 225-6322.
“You don’t have to have a lot of money or do a lot of things. Children just want to know that you care,” she said.