Photo features Maureen (Big Sister of the Year) and APHW Marketing Director Jeff Fett (Big Brother of the Year), as selected by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Michigan Capital Region.
Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Michigan Capital Region (MCR) held a celebratory event Tuesday, August 10, where they recognized America’s Preferred Home Warranty (APHW) Marketing Director Jeff Fett as their Big Brother of the Year. Jeff’s ‘Little’, Shawn, initially nominated him, quickly followed by a recommendation from the BBBS MCR support staff.
“I had some input, and one of the reasons I picked Jeff is because he demonstrates the qualities of being a Big,” said BBBS MCR Match Support Specialist Danielle Powell. “For example, during the pandemic, he still found ways to interact with his Little, like dropping off care packages or visiting for socially distant chats. His Little says he’s always there for him whenever he needs him, too. In our mission, it says to ‘defend their potential.’ Jeff defends the potential in his Little. He’s being a good role model and helping him as he grows up.”
“Shawn said during the ceremony that he hopes to one day do for somebody else what I have done for him,” Jeff said. “That’s what makes it all worth it to me.”
What is being a ‘Big’ like?
BBBS is a mentoring program that works to ignite the power and promise of youth to reach their full potential as they mature and become adults. They matched Jeff with his Little when Shawn was just 9 years old, based on their personalities and the needs to be met.
“It’s been a great match, and we get along famously,” Jeff said, describing how their time together always involves a lunch, “To work on his social interactions, and just to have a chance to talk.” They also do activities together, from playing basketball or going bowling to visiting museums, art fairs, and sporting events.
During the ceremony, Shawn noted that Jeff is one of the few adults who will actually sit down and listen to him. “When he expresses an opinion, I don’t put him down or say, ‘No that’s wrong.’ I just kind of listen,” Jeff said. “That’s really all these kids want, just to know that somebody is there to listen and be there for them.”
There’s a give and take
Jeff appreciates the far-reaching effects that being a Big has brought into his life. “I don’t think I could be the leader I am if I hadn’t gone through this process,” he said.
“Quite often you can’t see the full potential in somebody until you challenge them. One of my biggest joys with Shawn is when I have challenged him to look at something in a different way, or experience something he would have never done before,” Jeff said. “These become good lessons in developing those who answer to you in a professional setting, because you have to find out what sparks a person’s motivation, and then find a way to fan that spark into a flame.”
In the end, everybody benefits from a BBBS relationship. “The mentorship isn’t one-way; you have to be willing to grow as well,” Jeff said. “I’ve learned to look at things a little differently after seeing them through his eyes.”
Years ago, one of Jeff’s former colleagues worked late shifts and was unable to spend much time with his son. As the only male of his own household, Jeff enjoyed the opportunity to share his love of sports with the boy, and they attended plenty of games together. “I had always cherished that experience,” Jeff said. “So after my daughter had graduated from college, I finally decided to join Big Brothers.”
Jeff’s Little has grown quite a bit since they first matched together, and is about to head into his junior year of high school. “Shawn is in the stage now where he’s starting to transition from high school to adulthood, and realizing that he’s making decisions that will greatly impact his future,” Jeff said. “It’s a great feeling, knowing that I'm helping him to think about those decisions.”
A friend for life
According to Jeff, BBBS is the hope that you will stay matched from when you first meet your Little until they turn 18 (the formal ‘end’ of the program). “Then, if you’ve been matched for quite a while, your friendship will usually extend for life,” he said. “It’s been fun watching Shawn grow, and there’s more growth to come.”
Want to join BBBS?
“The Big Brothers Big Sisters Michigan Capital Region serves children in Clinton, Eaton, Ingham, Ionia, and Shiawassee counties, helping to develop positive relationships that have a direct and lasting effect on the lives of young people,” Danielle said. Locals can visit bbbsmcr.org or call 517.372.0160 for more information on joining the program. You can also visit bbbs.org to find your local chapter elsewhere across the country.
Danielle described the ideal Big as someone who is going to care for their Little and spend time with them. “Just be there for them as a role model for whatever they’re going through,” she said. “You need to be someone who is not going to give up on them.”
The application process includes an interview and a background check, as safety for the Littles is the program’s main concern. “We are looking for both male and female Bigs for our school and community-based programs. Please reach out to us today!”