Two Washington County residents learned how to give back to the community through a mentoring program, which served them when they faced adversity.
Alyssa House grew up in foster care, but is now pursuing an English degree at Hagerstown Community College to become a teacher.
Gary Weaver, meanwhile, grew up as an only child during the 1950’s and 1960’s in a subsidized, single-parent home. But now, he’s a board member for Tabitha’s Table, a food bank in Smithsburg.
So what do these two have in common? They both said the mentoring program Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washington County changed their lives.
“Being in this program kind of helped me to just grow up – because my big sister, Verna, was there for me almost 11 years and we’d done everything together,” House said.
“I can certainly tell you that without those three men in my life, I’m not sure I’d be sitting here talking to you,” Weaver said.
House was matched with her big sister, Verna, when she was just eight years old. They remained a match for more than a decade, helping her get through things like changes in guardianship, living situations and schools.
“Verna helped me look forward in life, to never give up and to always pursue your dreams,” House said. “She’s always told me that, and so I’m just like…’you’re always going to be you. Don’t let anyone tell you what not to do, because it’s your life. You can do it.'”
“She has set a great example of what it means to overcome the obstacles that you’ve faced, that are often out of your control, and reaching that level where you now have control of your choices and what you’re able to do in pursuing it,” said Tracy Mumma, the match program coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washington County.
Weaver had three different bigs, and said that each one teached him core lessons about good manners, family and giving back. Since then, Weaver has dedicated over 50 years to the agency – going from a big to board member and former board president.
“I cannot give back enough for this agency, for all that they’ve given me and the time that those other big brothers gave to me,” he explained. “They certainly could have done something else.”
“That dedication to recognizing what’s made the difference for you, and being so willing to pay that forward to others…that’s what we hope for all of our littles,” Mumma added.
As for House, she’s never been a big – but wants to do so in the future. For now, she’s made monetary donations and is a vocal advocate for the program.
“I feel like I give back being who I am,” House said.
“That’s just what we look for in our littles. We look for them to take what they’ve learned, and move forward with it…and just be the best they can be, whatever that may be, whatever it is that they choose to do,” Mumma said.
As she continues her education, House hopes to make a difference in her future students’ lives, and give them a new perspective.
House and Weaver continue to keep in contact with their littles and bigs.