Mentoring a child brings reward to all

By Eric Butler

Editor’s note: This is the 13th in a series of United Way agency profiles scheduled for publication each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday through this week.

Phil Teakell of Clovis believes mentoring a child is something every adult should try at least once.
As a volunteer for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Teakell is starting on his second mentoring adventure. The United Way-supported group asks that volunteers spend at least one hour once a week with a child.
“You know how there’s the Great American Smokeout, where smokers try to quit for just one day?” Teakell said. “I wish we could have a Great American Mentoring Day, so people could try it just one time to see what it means to a child. It boggles the mind the influence you can have, even with just a couple of hours with a kid.”
Teakell, 53, first became a big brother five years ago to a boy who was in the fourth grade. Activities for the pair included bowling, hitting baseballs at batting cages and eating.
He said he still keeps in touch with that child, who is now 14.
“I call him. He’s an athlete, so I go to his games and try to encourage him in any way that I can,” Teakell said. “He’s at that stage now where his peers are more important to him. But there’ll be a time where he’ll need some advice, so he’ll be calling.”
A father of three grown children, Teakell’s philosophy for being a big brother is simple.
“A boy needs a man. I know that sounds sexist, but it’s true,” he said.
“Most of these kids (in the program) come from single-parent families where there isn’t a man in the boy’s life.”
Teakell said he’s amazed at the influence one can have on a child in just a couple of hours a week.
“It’s the most amazing sense of accomplishment I get out of my whole week,” he said.
Yvette Gardner, program director for Big Brothers/Big Sisters in Curry and Roosevelt counties, said her organization is in the process of moving out from under the wing of Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) in Clovis.
About 170 adults mentor children in the area, Gardner said.

Big Brothers/Big Sisters
> Location: 105 E. Grand
> Phone: 762-5530
> Mission: To provide adult volunteer mentors for children in the community.
> Estimated annual operating budget: $145,000
> Approximate amount contributed by United Way: 2 percent