One hour a day, one day a week — to Napa residents Martha Pastcan and Sheila Newberry, that adds up to an opportunity to make a difference in a young Napa County girl’s life.
Pastcan and Newberry volunteer that time each week with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the North Bay. They are each paired with a little sister they take to the library, ice skating, climbing trips, volunteering at the animal shelter or going to a museum.
Sometimes, though, they just go to lunch or talk.
“I think I’m a sounding board lately,” said Newberry, whose little sister is 15 years old and has been meeting with Newberry for six years.
Newberry, who was honored as Napa County’s Big Sister of the Year in 2012, said she has a granddaughter who’s 14 years old, and recognizes that the activities she does with her little sister have to be entertaining to a younger generation.
“It has to be fun or they’re not going to want to be with me,” Newberry said. “The easiest part about being a big sister is like being a grandparent — you get to give them back.”
Pastcan said the Big Brothers Big Sisters program has proven effective in improving children’s lives. They are less likely to skip school, drop out, use drugs or alcohol and get pregnant.
She said the program has also given her benefits by exposing her to a new culture — her little sister, 13, is Latino, and she taught Pastcan how to make tostadas. In return, Pastcan showed her how to make latkes for Hanukkah.
“I look forward to being with her,” Pastcan said. “She helps me learn and see things through fresh eyes. I get to do things I wouldn’t normally get to do.”
Pastcan and Newberry said they’ll continue to meet with their little sisters in the future, possibly through high school — the program cutoff for continuing to meet is 18 years old — but acknowledge that the children might get to an age where they no longer want to meet.
“I’m pretty accepting,” Pastcan said. “Your friends get more important after a while.”
Pastcan said the program in Napa County has a waiting list of 26 little brothers — it needs that many men to volunteer and be their big brothers.
“Just give it a try,” Pastcan said. “It’s going to enrich your life. It’s going to enrich somebody else’s life. This is a way to connect and maybe make a difference.”