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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Martins mentor local youngster

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Dave Martin (left) and wife, Jara, are pictured with Ben Daniels, Martin's "Little" in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bourbon County program.
(Submitted Photo)
For single parents like Trish Daniels, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bourbon County can be a big help.

For more than a year, City Manager Dave Martin and his wife, Jara, have served as mentors in the BBBS program for Daniels' son, Ben, a seventh-grader at Fort Scott Middle School. And their volunteer efforts have given Ben the additional adult guidance and relationships he might not otherwise get.

"It's been a very positive experience," Trish said. "It makes such a big difference in little kids' lives; knowing someone else cares about them."

Trish, who also has another son in the BBBS program, Jonathan, signed the two boys up for the program when they were both still in elementary school.

"I signed them up when they were in third and fourth grade," she said. "They've both been in the program for some time. I started Ben with the school-based program, where they are matched with high school kids, then went to the community-based program ... It gives them a male role model. They don't see a lot of their dad. I'm a single parent and it's nice for them to have someone else to look up to."

Trish said Dave has often been the male figure in Ben's life, and includes Ben in many of his own family's activities. Time that Martin spends with Ben varies from one hour to about half a day.

"It makes them feel important; it boosts their self-esteem so much," she said of BBBS mentors. "It's helpful for my boys."

Jonathan, a sixth-grader at FSMS, is still in the school-based BBBS program, where he is paired with an older high school mentor.

Ben said the program has been "amazing" and has provided him with role models.

"They're (the Martins) good people to look up to," he said.

When he was in the school-based program, Ben said he and his mentor would usually visit during lunch, and sometimes go outside or walk around the school. With the Martins, he goes to various sporting events and other functions with them and gets to participate in other family activities.

"It's really given me somebody to look up to," he said. "I only have a little brother at home and my mom's not really around me a lot." He also does not get to spend much time with his father, Trish said.

Martin will visit Ben at school and have lunch with him, and they have attended high school functions together such as homecoming, improv night, talent shows and various plays. They have also visited the zoo in Kansas City where Trish said they had "quite a bit of a day."

Dave said the application process for the program took about six months. The organization looks at different matches and screens backgrounds to "try to get someone who would be a good fit, with family circumstances."

"His (Ben's) mother is an excellent lady who works hard and has done a good job raising two boys," Martin said. "She's really good to work with. It takes the family working with me. She's been great; she just loves those kids."

BBBS helps boys and girls, most of whom are considered at-risk and live in single-parent homes, to achieve their full potential through long-term personal relationships with carefully screened volunteers from the community. The agency matches youth from 5 to 18 years of age with older mentors.

Vickie Chaplin, chairwoman of the community advisory board for the BBBS of Bourbon County program, said the Martins are the first couple matched as "Bigs" in Bourbon County. "Bigs" spend time with their "Littles" each week.

"He and his wife did it as a couple instead of individually," she said. "We don't expect them to spend a lot of money, just spend time with them and incorporate them into their family's lives."

Martin, who has four daughters, said serving as a mentor also allows him to experience what it would be like to have a son.

"I've always kind of wanted a boy," he said. "I'm trying to be a father figure."

The Martins also get involved in the youth's life through such activities as fishing, taking him to lunch or basketball practice or games, dropping him off at home, picking him up, or just calling him on the phone to say "hello."

If something conflicts with Dave's busy slate as city manager, Jara steps in to spend time with Ben.

"Jara works at the high school; she's busy, too," Dave said. "We make it a priority to look at the coming week and decide how to fit it in. A lot of it is nothing more than getting him involved in our normal family activities. Watching him practice, whatever he's involved in."

Most local "Bigs" are high school students who are matched with elementary and middle school students and spend time with their "Littles" each week. They may eat lunch together, go to recess or work on schoolwork together. The agency also recruits mentors who are willing to mentor in community-based programs.

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