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United Way and Big Brothers/Big Sisters

The Hampshire County United Way, to which Smith has contributed more than $140,000 in recent years, has supported Big Brothers/Big Sisters, a national organization that provides adult companions for children, since 1995. This year’s Smith United Way campaign is well on its way to its goal of $145,000, which represents 8 percent of the county campaign’s $1.75 million goal. In one year, the United Way serves an estimated 50,000 people in Hampshire County through its support of some 60 agencies and programs that assist people in need in a range of ways. Big Brothers/Big Sisters is one beneficiary. Here are some thoughts by Ferris Shelton, assistant director of special events in advancement, who remembers his own big brother.

My Big Brother

By Ferris Shelton

I still remember Robert. Though I am the oldest sibling in my family, he was definitely my big brother.

I was reminded of Robert while speaking recently with Jonathan Gosnell, assistant professor of French studies at Smith, about his involvement with Big Brothers/Big Sisters (BBBS). As kids, most of us have been lucky enough to know a non-parental, older person that lent advice and guidance. But most importantly, they were there for us.

BBBS is a national youth-services organization that facilitates those mentoring friendships. Jonathan was a volunteer big brother to a local youth for five years. Although his little brother has moved on to North Carolina with his family, their relationship is ongoing because of the friendship forged through BBBS. That camaraderie is the result of matching the right volunteers with the right little brother or little sister.

“Being a big brother or big sister is something that almost anyone can do,” says the BBBS Web site. “The only requirement is a willingness to make a new friend and a desire to share some fun with a young person.” Jonathan Gosnell gushes when he talks about all the fun he and his little brother had, their activities, included biking, basketball, hiking, fishing and visiting museums—and, of course, homework.

Volunteers are supported by a BBBS program coordinator and provide an important service while having an enjoyable and fulfilling experience.

“I feel strongly about the good things that came out of our relationship,” Jonathan says. Their bond continues despite the miles between them. BBBS is no longer involved but they don’t have to be. That five-year friendship is in great shape.

Robert and I lost touch as the years went by. But I’ll never forget my big brother.

For more information on Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America, or to volunteer, consult

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