Each year, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Berks County honors those who have stood out in our agency — and we had a great pool of candidates to consider for the 2021 Annual Awards.
Today (January 18th), we were able to hand out our last award among our 2021 Annual Awards…the Corporate Sponsor of the Year. Specifically for corporations, this award honors a particular company who has made a financial or program contribution to the agency either with a particular issue/challenge or consistently throughout the year and we congratulate and thank Green Tree Technology! Adam Dries and Mitch Baker (pictured accepting the award) are the ones behind Green Tree Technology.
One lesson learned during the pandemic – which started in 2020 and continues today – is the importance of computers and related technology. Virtual interviews, trainings, activities and more – not to mention the need for staff to work from home – became a way of life from the advent of the pandemic into this year – and will undoubtedly continue at least into the new year. Throughout all of the challenges, our Corporate Sponsor has been standing side by side with Big Brothers Big Sisters to ensure our computers were running and our software was operating as we needed to sustain our programming – making themselves available on an almost immediate basis; sometimes doing work “over the airwaves” of the internet and other times meeting with us when necessary. Much of that work can be at great cost…if not for that special note at the end of each invoice from this company: “50% special discount” went along way in saving the agency money when we needed it most.
The working relationship with our Corporate Sponsor began eight years ago. In 2013, the company’s principle took it upon himself to raise money to replace all of our computer equipment plus purchase additional equipment to create Wifi networks within our agency – all of which was installed for fee as an in-kind donation. It led to that man – Adam Dries – being named our Community Champion of the Year. Besides providing us with heavily discounted services, the company has continued its support since that time – providing our agency with an annual in-kind donation for our anti-virus software (an annual donation worth more than $500 per year). The anti-virus donation adds up; the discounted work & equipment adds up: the quick-support when needed adds up. It all adds up to congratulating our 2021 Corporate Sponsor of the Year…Green Tree Technology!
The COUL Big of the Year award goes to an outstanding COUL Big who has excelled in participation, has been of particular assistance to the success of the program, or has exhibited an extraordinary dedication to the goals of the program…and the 2021 COUL Big of the Year is Don Stripling! BB Don has continued to volunteer his time even during the midst of the pandemic. This Big Brother continues to show up for the Littles and staff when we needed him the most. He continues to be a constant friendly face and positive energy at the activities. This Big Brother is usually the first one to arrive to an activity and the last one to leave. He always makes sure the Littles have what they need and are having a great time.
We extend a huge THANK YOU to our COUL Big of the Year… Don!
The 2021 Match of the Year goes to a match that has created a stable, nurturing relationship; has consistently worked toward and/or achieved the goals of the match; and has been able to effectively navigate any issues or challenges to the match…and this year that is LB Fotis and BB George (pictured here).
Little Brother Fotis and Big Brother George have been matched since January 2018 and they are currently our longest match at the agency. The two enjoy spending time outdoors together, doing things like going kayaking, fishing, riding bikes, and playing volleyball. BB George frequently attends LB Fotis’ sporting events to cheer him on. George says, “I try to listen and make him think. I try to keep things light-hearted. He knows he can talk to me.” When Fotis was asked how having a Big has impacted him the most, he replied “That’s my mentor. He helps me and I appreciate the outdoors more because of him. He made me enjoy nature.” Fotis also stated, “he’s constantly giving me advice on everything. I appreciate it.” Fotis has grown and matured immensely during his time at BBBS of Berks County. He has committed to a college, has a job, was on homecoming court, and is the Senior Class President. George stated “He [Fotis] is probably one of the most well-rounded 17-year-olds I’ve ever met. He can carry on a conversation with people any age and it just amazes me. He just fits in.” Thanks to BB George helping to defend his potential, LB Fotis is now a mature, young adult!
Congratulations to our 2021 Match of the Year…LB Fotis and BB George!
On January 3rd, we presented a plaque for the 2021 Community Champion of the Year! This award is given to an individual who has taken a heart-felt interest in the success of our agency. This can be on a particular issue/challenge faced by the agency, or someone who has consistently made the success of our agency a priority in their lives.
Our Community Champion of the Year has only been involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Berks County for relatively short period of time – but has stood tall as a Defender of Potential since day one. Born and raised in rural Vermont, Our Community Champion moved to Berks County in 2016 for work and immediately showed her commitment to the community by volunteering with several youth organizations including UGI-sponsored COUL events with Big Brothers Big Sisters; serve as a tutor for United Way of Berks County’s Ready.Set.Read! program; and support events at Olivet’s Boys and Girls Club through Emerging Leaders United.
In January 2020, she became a part of our Board of Directors – serving on a number of Committees. This year was her first year as Chair of our Bowl For Kids’ Sake Committee – spearheading our return to in-person bowling.
Our Community Champion may have her roots in Vermont, but even went as far as to transplant some of those roots…literally. As a member of the Building Committee, she has been active in maintenance and upkeep around the property – in particular, the landscaping. So when I say “literally”, it’s because she uprooted a number of plants from her parents’ home in Vermont. You’ll find them outside our buildings.
Our Community Champion of the Year also serves on the Fund Development, Marketing and Volunteer Recruitment Committees – and next year is expected to up her game even further by becoming a part of our Executive Committee.
Congratulations to our Community Champion of the Year…Sidney Purnell!
What do you say to an organization whose main purpose is to help other organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters. Well, you say thank you and you honor them. That is what we did on Thursday, December 23rd, honoring our Community Partner of the Year 2021. This award typically goes to a group or company/corporation which has made a significant impact in the agency’s success on a particular issue/challenge or consistently throughout the year. Many agencies – including Big Brothers Big Sisters – faced overwhelming new challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic continues, and so do those challenges. And our Community Partner of the Year stood out as not only a great friend to this agency but a great friend to all of Berks County.
Our Community Partner of the Year is directly responsible for no less than 50% of the revenues raised by our agency each year – allowing Big Brothers Big Sisters to provide our four (4) quality-driven mentoring services to hundreds of youth. That is nothing unusual.
What was unusual is how they stepped up their game during these challenging times, creating a COVID Fund to help agencies. In 2021, Big Brothers Big Sisters received $5,000 over & above our usual funding to help us respond to the COVID challenges – and it was just recently announced that we will receive another $5,000 in unrestricted COVID funds again in 2022. In addition as part of its response to the community need, our Community Partner of the Year provided a continuing supply of facial masks, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, and more to allow our agency to continue our programs and ensure the safety of our Littles, Bigs, staff, and their families.
In another show of extraordinary support, the agency faced a major safety concern at our building – with the side porch in our main building showing signs of stress and was in imminent danger of falling. In stepped our Community Partner of the Year – which stepped up to assist in funding the necessary repairs, ensuring the safety of our participants and staff.
We thank our Community Partner of the Year for being true DEFENDERS OF POTENTIAL in Berks County youth. Congratulations to our Community Partner of the Year…The United Way of Berks County!
Also on Thursday, December 23rd, we honored our top volunteer. The David Hyman Award (Volunteer of the Year) honoree is an individual who has made a significant, extraordinary contribution to the success of the agency during the course of the year. This is not for a one-time challenge/issue, but rather is for someone who has consistently served as an advocate/friend to the agency. The award is named after one of our founders (David Hyman).
On our Board of Directors since 2017, our Volunteer of the Year was thrust into a leadership role early on – after the passing of our then Board Treasurer Jason Claudfelter. Liz has excelled as Board Treasurer ever since. Her many duties as a Board Treasurer include creating the agency budget & ensuring the agency stays within its means; overseeing the annual independent audit; and serving as the key fiscal advisor to the Executive Director.
While serving on the Executive Committee as Board Treasurer, Liz took on an additional role as the chairperson of our Annual Giving Campaign – and has assisted in other Board/Committee roles as well.
Liz has also emerged as a leader in our Bowl For Kids’ Sake event, which is our largest internal fundraiser of the year – but not necessarily in her role on the Board. In 2019 (pre-COVID), the three teams she recruited from Herbein raised $7,400…and Liz, as a bowler, raised more individually than any other bowler for that year (raising more than $5,000 on her own). This year, Liz recruited two teams from her company (Herbein + Company) who raised nearly $5,400 combined…and again, Liz was the highest individual fundraiser among all bowlers at the event.
Congratulations to this year’s recipient of the David Hyman Volunteer of the Year award…Liz Hassler!
December 21st, our COUL Little of the Year stopped by the agency. The COUL Little of the Year is an outstanding COUL (Club Of Unmatched Littles) Little who shined as far as attendance & participation at COUL or could be a COUL Little who has personally excelled. This year’s COUL Little of the Year is a person who is not afraid to let his creativity shine! Whether it is drawing, painting, or building something — this Little is sure to impress you with his artistic abilities. When he is not creating art, he is mastering the games of Uno and Jenga at COUL. This Little always shows up to activities with a smile on his face and ready to participate. He continues to demonstrate to the younger Littles how to be helpful and polite.
Congratulations to our 2021 COUL Little of the Year…Little Brother Julien!
Also on Tuesday (December 21st), we presented the TEEN OF THE YEAR award. — given to an outstanding Little (matched or unmatched) who shined in their attendance and participation in our Teen Program. Our Teen of the Year knows what it means to reach for the stars! This Little has been a part of our agency since 2016 and has been matched with her Big Sister since 2018. She continues to impress everyone she meets with her maturity, wisdom, and kind nature. As a junior in high school, this Little has already finished her first semester of college courses and doesn’t plan to stop there. She has big plans to pursue a dental internship beginning in the new year — and plans to continue her education after high school and enlist in the military. When she is not focusing on school, this Little can be found playing soccer, hanging out with her Big Sister, working at Starbucks, and volunteering her time helping out at BBBS activities. Congratulations to our 2021 Teen of the Year…Little Sister Jeannine!!!