By Robert Maharry
At the beginning of the last school year, MHS senior Ella Roush learned about a variety of community service groups through mosaic church, and she learned about Heart of Iowa Big Brothers Big Sisters through a fellow church member, Desiray Christen, who works for the organization.
Roush said she wasn’t overly familiar at the time, but it sounded like such a good opportunity to become a “big” and mentor a “little” that she couldn’t turn it down.
“I know that I am willing and able to do that for someone, so why wouldn’t I want to do that, to help someone like that?” she said.
She’s now in her second year working with Katilena, but Roush did admit it’s a bit different than she originally thought it would be.
“I feel like we’ve both grown with each other in a lot of ways. Just getting to know her more has been an incredible experience,” she said. “I don’t have a younger sister at all, so that was a new experience for me being an older sister in that sense. I thought it a lot harder than it is, but it’s really just such a joyful experience that we get to spend time together, whether it’s coloring or walking outside or we’re doing the questions that Desiray puts in our little box of activities to do. I think the process of us, like, opening up to each other and getting to know each other better has taken a long time, but it’s been so fulfilling to just become people that we trust to each other. We’ve just gotten so much closer, and I’m so thankful that I’ve decided to do it because I think that she benefits from it and I enjoy it so much.”
The two meet once a week during Katilena’s Bobcat Time at Lenihan between 10:55 and 11:40 a.m., which Roush lamented is never enough, but they’re also able to connect through special events that BBBS puts on to connect outside of a school setting. And if anyone else is considering get involved, she has three words of advice — go for it.
“It’s not something that’s hard to do. It’s once a week for less than an hour, and you don’t have to be a therapist for these kids. You just have to be there for them. Just be someone solid in their lives that will be around them and have fun with them, and it’s not a big task to do,” she said. “So if you are even on the fence about it, they are always needing more people to volunteer to be bigs because there’s just so many kids in the community that have signed up and they’re just waiting to get a big. So if you’re on the fence about it, completely, absolutely, definitely go for it.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters Executive Director Lynne Caroll is proud of the opportunities and connections her organization helps to facilitate and hopes more future bigs will decide to follow in Roush’s footsteps.
“We never run out of kids in need of a mentor, so we are always looking to recruit new people to be mentors. Also, I think there’s the impression that we’re always doing good things for kids, but not always realizing how much we can get back as adults,” she said.
Heart of Iowa Big Brothers Big Sisters is located at 31 S. 1st St. in Marshalltown. To learn more about the organization, visit https://www.heartofiowabigs.org/ or https://www.facebook.com/p/Heart-of-Iowa-Big-Brothers-Big-Sisters-Marshalltown-100071785266620/