PIQUA — Big Brothers Big Sisters of Shelby and Darke County honored Larry McLaughlin and Keith Foutz at its annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner on Thursday, Jan. 30.
Both McLaughlin and Foutz, publisher of The Early Bird and Daily Advocate, won the Friends of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Award — McLaughlin for Shelby County, and Foutz for Darke County.
“I’m humbled, just very humbled and grateful,” Foutz said. He accepted the award on behalf of The Early Bird.
Foutz, of Greenville, served on the board for Big Brothers Big Sisters from 2013 to 2018, and continues to work with the organization by mentoring youth in the Darke County area.
“He can be described as laid-back and happy-go-lucky, which was instrumental in recruiting our president,” Program Coordinator Mandi Croft said.
McLaughlin, of Sidney, has been a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters for 14 years. As part of being presented with the Shelby County Award, Big Brothers Big Sisters recorded messages from some of the “littles” he works with in after school programs.
“Mr. McLaughlin, I like you because you are funny, silly, and helpful when I work with you,” said one little sister within the organization.
“I’m appreciative and shocked,” McLaughlin said. “I didn’t think I did enough. I don’t expect anything. I had a good education through the Sidney City Schools, and I just like to help. I enjoy doing it.”
Guest speaker Christina Ryan Claypool, of Troy, emphasized empowering mentees through honesty and giving them attention, and igniting their potential. Claypool is an award-winning journalist, author, and speaker who describes herself as someone who was an at-risk youth. In her speech, she compared the work the mentors in Big Brothers Big Sisters organization do to Mary Poppins.
“She’s the person who gives the children the attention they crave. Some of your littles, probably lots of them, are just craving your attention,” Claypool said. “This is one of the jobs of a mentor, to give attention, to listen to a mentee’s concerns, to give them a chance to talk to someone. That’s what you do. It’s a big component, because nobody listens anymore. You’re so important.”
Claypool also highlighted the importance of not losing sight of what a child needs by striving to be perfect.
“As a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters, you don’t have to be perfect, and you’re not going to be perfect, because there are no perfect people. They don’t need somebody perfect, because we’re human. Instead, mentors simply need to want to make a difference in someone’s life. That’s what you do,” Claypool said.
Claypool then addressed the room, asking for reasons why everyone volunteers their time to mentor youth in the area. Most people got involved to give back, make a change, and step outside of their comfort zones to make a difference.
“Making a difference is exactly the reason we’re all here tonight,” Claypool said. “This is a calling. What you are doing is valuable, it’s important, it’s lifechanging. Hang in there; one life at a time, you’re making a difference.”