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'Bigs' needed for 'Littles'

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November 02, 2017 | By Natalie Reid Miller, Observer-Reporter


Pam Slomiany of McMurray is a “Big” to “Little” Jessica, 13. Slomiany volunteers and works for Big Brothers Big Sisters Pittsburgh, which serves children in Washington, Greene and Allegheny counties.

Although "Big" Pam Slomiany and her "Little" enjoy activities like paddleboarding and bowling, it's the little things that make a big impact.

"It's more based on a relationship rather than monetary gifts and giving. I think the biggest thing is, she'll call me and say, 'I got an 'A' on a test.' She knows my first question is going to be about school and grades," said Slomiany, a "Big" with Big Brothers Big Sisters Pittsburgh. "Just to know someone else besides a parent is caring about them and encouraging them … it makes a big difference."

The nonprofit, which serves Washington, Greene and Allegheny counties, matches adult mentors with children facing adversity. With the "Big is Big" campaign, the organization's goal is to help raise awareness of evidenced-based mentoring programs and to recruit new mentors to positively impact children.

There are dozens of children on the organization's wait list.

"We have at least 20 Littles waiting right now who are identified," said Slomiany, who also works for the nonprofit as an enrollment specialist and outreach coordinator. "If we had more Bigs, we would have more Littles."

There is a pressing need for male mentors in Washington County, where about 100 children are currently paired with Bigs through their school and site-based programs.

"We can always use volunteers, but it's much easier for us to get women," said CEO Jan Glick. "A lot of children we serve have had a lot of people come in and out of their lives. The idea is to be caring and consistent. It doesn't have to be Kennywood every day."

The organization encourages Bigs, who meet with their Littles twice a month for three to five hours, to engage in activities that aren't expensive.

"Pam (Slomiany) and her Little like to do arts and crafts," Glick said. "It depends on what you're interested in and being able to spend time. It's not about what you do."

Slomiany's Little, Jessica, a 13-year-old from Washington County, has developed Slomiany's passion for philanthropy.

"One thing we love to do is go to downtown Pittsburgh. I always keep bags in my car with gloves, water and other things a homeless person might need. She loves handing out those bags. She's very altruistic at such a young age," Slomiany said.

Recently, Slomiany was a source of support when Jessica's family was forced to move suddenly from their home.

"There's a bond between us," she said. "It's wonderful to create that bond and feel like you are truly helping someone. And it's such little time out of your month to give."

Glick said that potential volunteers are often worried about the time commitment.

"If you have time to watch a Steelers game on Sunday, you have time to be a Big," Glick said. "The need is there."

And while Jessica benefits from their relationship, Slomiany feels like she is the lucky one.

"This is one of the best things I've ever done, besides my own biological children," said Slomiany. "A lot of times, people my age don't think they should do it or could do it. But it's a great thing to keep young."

This story, which ran on September 27, 2017 in the Observer-Reporter, has been shared courtesy of Observer Publishing Company. Photos courtesy of Tom Johnson.