At Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area we are grateful to get lots of inquiries from potential volunteers interested in becoming a Big. While we work hard to find the perfect match for our Littles, sometimes there are other, just as valuable, ways that volunteers can have incredible impact on our Bay Area kids.
We’d like to introduce you to someone who exemplifies that level of impact — meet Gwen Mitchell. She’s been a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters for about four decades. Her story is about perseverance, connection and gratitude. We celebrate Gwen’s involvement with our organization and want to inspire others to follow in her footsteps.
How did you first get involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area?
When my son, Cedrick, was 6 yrs years old I was a divorced, single mother. I wanted him to have some guidance and support. He wanted a black man to be his mentor but there weren’t any black men available. I told him that wasn’t the point. It’s about having someone to talk to and go out with, play sports, regardless of your color. My son did get a Big Brother named Charles. He passed the State Bar Exam, and became a lawyer, then he left California and went to Hawaii. Even though it was a short period of time, I appreciated it sincerely and I wanted to give back to the organization.
It’s been a long time since your son was a Little Brother so why have you stayed involved over all these years?
I signed up to be a Big Sister and while I waited I volunteered in other ways. I never did become a Big Sister but I didn’t let it deter me from what I could be a part of. I like helping with the events — seeing the kids having fun with their Bigs. Everyone’s happy and connections get strengthened. I stay involved because raising the money is still helping the kids.
You volunteer for other charities as well. What keeps you motivated?
I am a Volunteer for the Red Cross, the SF Symphony at Davies Hall, and the Janet Pomeroy Center, for the Disabled. I am a senior, retiree, and disabled, but a multi-talented and skillful person who enjoys life by helping all others, including the kids from Big Brothers Big Sisters. I help everyone across the board. I was a nurse and I’ve been sick and injured. Coming back and helping others pulled me together.
Why is Big Brothers Big Sisters towards the top of your list of organizations to volunteer with?
To me it’s about saving the kids. Not having them out on the street. It’s about having people that care about them, mentor them. They see that this person really cares about their success in life. Communication, respect, education — I believe a mentor can teach those things.
Everyone has issues and problems but there are ways to help. If you have someone who’s motivating you and stimulating you… That’s a form of love. And I believe that you can help yourself by helping others. It’s a beautiful thing and keeps me going and feeling stronger, so I don’t get discouraged. If you are rich in resources and rich in your mind you can make it. I enjoy doing what I’m doing because I help others — for that brief period of time, I’m grateful.
All of us at Big Brothers Big Sisters are incredibly grateful to Gwen for her focus and determination. You can meet Gwen at our Golf Tournament in June before she goes off that very same evening to receive her 40 year award as an honoree at the Red Cross. She deserves recognition from us all since she is a remarkably dedicated and generous member of our Bay Area community.