BIG SPOTLIGHT: Sarah
For our June Big Spotlight, we’d like to shine a light on one of our outstanding volunteers. Meet Sarah Weinzapfel! Sarah works as an elementary school teacher at Cedar Hall, which is where she initially connected with her Little Sister Zaylah.
Despite spending a great deal of time with her own 2 children and with her students, Sarah wanted a fun and simple way to make a difference in the life of a child. She saw the positive impact that Big Brothers Big Sisters has had for many children, and decided to apply. While spending time with her babies and her students, she finds that life is often noisy and fast paced. But with Zaylah, she has a chance to slow down and to focus on one thing. Sarah describes her Little as “an incredibly caring person with a great sense of humor”.
Sarah is consistent when scheduling outings, communicates well with the family, listens with a compassionate ear, and double checks with her case manager about program guidelines. But that isn’t all she excels at doing. She also does a fantastic job balancing her outings with Zaylah. They rotate between low-key, one-on-one time spent strolling the aisles of Target, walking through Burdette Park, and noshing on Azzip pizza with more family-oriented outings like watching movies at Sarah’s house, baking cookies with Sarah’s mom and letting Zaylah enjoy time playing with Sarah’s babies in the backyard. Zaylah gets the individual attention she needs while also feeling like she’s connected to Sarah; a true part of the extended family. Sarah says that their favorite activities so far have been carving pumpkins for Halloween, baking cookies and celebrating Zaylah’s birthday!
Both Sarah’s and Zaylah’s families are important parts of the match too. Sarah’s husband and mom support the match and take an interest in Zaylah. But more important is the relationship that Sarah has fostered with Zaylah’s guardian. Most Bigs share with guardians about the planned activity and how it went, which she does before and after each outing, but Sarah goes above and beyond. She asks about how the family is doing and genuinely listens. She isn’t afraid to share about her own life. That extra time and attention really shows. Zaylah’s guardian says that he couldn’t ask for a better Big Sister and that Sarah is so down-to-earth, easy to talk to, and genuine. He appreciates Sarah taking time to check in with him and feels supported and valued.
The best part of being a Big for Sarah is that she knows they each look forward to seeing each other. And they love discovering how much they have in common! But, like every match, not every outing or day is picture perfect. Sarah has an incredibly insightful AND HEALTHY perspective on working with children. She says, “Children, like adults, have their happy days and not so happy days. Learning to support her (Zaylah) and be there for her through different moods has taught me a lot.”
Sarah’s advice for new Bigs is perfect! “Being a good listener and remembering to have fun yourself goes a long way! When children see you having fun, it brightens their day. Also, don’t be discouraged if things don’t go as you planned. Good relationships take time, and by being there through ups and downs, you are showing that child that you accept them just as they are. That is truly an incredible feeling!”
If you are interested in becoming a Big Sister Like Sarah visit mentoringkids.org