Big Brothers Big Sisters Of Puget Sound Celebrates Mentorship In Grand Style

Alonda Williams, President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Of Puget Sound, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, WOW Gallery visionary Veronica Very, and artist Hiawatha Davis pose in front of an original artwork created to raise funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters during their annual fundraiser recently held at the WOW Gallery in downtown Seattle. Courtesy photo.

From Aaron Allen The Seattle Medium

Big Brothers Big Sisters Puget Sound (BBBSPS) recently held their annual fundraiser at the WOW Gallery on Pacific Place in downtown Seattle. The event, held on the last day of Women’s History Month, emphasized the power of mentoring, celebrating the lives and legacies of women and the potential and empowerment of youth.

For over 64 years, BBBSPS has helped empower youth and help them reach their potential through building and supporting personal mentoring relationships. Some of their innovative youth development programs include community-based and location-based mentoring, with specific options for Black and African American boys, LGBTQ youth, and career and college prep. With the help of a mentor, youth can improve their self-esteem, make positive behavioral choices, utilize and maximize their academic achievement, and strengthen their peer and family relationships.

According to BBBSPS President and CEO Alonda Williams, the organization currently serves over 1,200 children and their families in King, Pierce and Kitsap counties.

“We’re the largest mentoring agency in the state,” says Williams. “We’ve been mentoring for more than sixty years… and we currently have about 1,000 mentors.”

Williams, who took over as CEO last fall, says this year’s fundraiser was very different from the traditional events the organization has held in recent years.

“This event has happened before, but in a different way,” says Williams. “It used to be a breakfast and fundraiser. I started in the role of President in October and I wanted to do something different. With March being Women’s History Month, I thought what can we do to celebrate our wives and young women.”

In response, Williams and her team worked with Veronica Very, the founder and visionary of Wonder of Women International (WOW) and the founder and visionary of the WOW Gallery, to co-create an exclusive experience that will attract a more diverse and engaging audience should go to the event.

“The beauty of it was that it really brought together the best of both teams,” says Williams. “Veronica provided an incredible experience that truly delighted all of the guests who were there and helped us raise money for our organization to help us serve our community.”

Very says she was excited to be a part of such an important event.

“She [Williams] wanted to re-imagine what their annual “Big Brothers Big Sisters” fundraiser could look like by holding it in our space…. and I was very excited about it,” says Very.

As part of the event, Williams commissioned WOW Gallery to create a painting illustrating the work and impact of BBBSPS and used it as a fundraising item during the event.

Inspired by some conversations with Williams and her staff, Hiawatha Davis, an artist and co-founder/creator of WOW Gallery, created a painting that captures the essence of the event and the work of BBBSPS.

“When we called, we spoke about our work, the families we serve, the young people and the potential that is unlocked and the empowerment of having a mentor,” says Williams. “We wanted a piece that celebrates our event, that celebrates mentoring, that celebrates Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Hiawatha took the conversations from meetings and used them to inspire the painting he created for us.”

Davis, a Burnley School of Professional Art graduate, has been featured on Forbes, NBC and ABC affiliates, and the Black News Channel. His art exhibition, Iconic Black Women: Ain’t IA Woman, was shown at the Northwest African American Museum.

Hiawatha’s work is amazing,” says Very. “One of the things that drew me to Hiawatha’s work is that he paints us in a high place, us as black people. The stories he tells of us speak of us on high, they show us in vivid, beautiful colour, they show us successful, upwardly mobile and progressive. He provides stories of our triumphs and that’s why I was drawn to those stories.”

It was important for BBSPS to convey the role of mentoring in young people’s lives during the celebrations. The support that is needed, the idea that it takes a whole village to raise a child. BBBSPS is dedicated to ensuring that the children of our community know they have a support system to help them become whatever they can become.

“I think mentoring is crucial for young people,” says Very. “Whether you’re a young person just growing up and an aspiring leader, or an adult making a legacy and considering. Mentoring is vital at every stage of life.”

“My mother used to say, ‘We don’t arrive, if we don’t learn, we don’t live,'” Very continued. “Mentorships offer us the opportunity to continue learning, to have guidance, suggestions, reflection and support that help us to reflect and see in the mirror the difficult self, so mentoring is crucial.”

According to Williams, a mentor gives us the necessary security and helps us to understand our potential, especially during difficult times in one’s life, and that a mentor can literally change a young person’s life for the better.

“Our data speaks to how kids really change when they have a mentor,” says Williams. “Having that person in your corner, having someone who can help you with some of the tough life decisions, is just transformative. We always need mentors, this is our most important need right now, we always need mentors, my call to action is to become a mentor.”

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