By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson – Soon after becoming involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Central Mass/Metrowest, Margaret Melo Sullivan of Hudson, CFO at Avidia Bank, began developing memories with her Little, Paige, who was then age 10.
Among their common interests are singing, dancing and playing outdoors. They were introduced about a year ago at the Boys & Girls Club of Assabet Valley in Maynard.
“We hit it off immediately,” she recalled. “The very first day that we met, it was nonstop playing and having fun. My strongest memory was her talking me into doing a somersault outside on the front lawn. Then she went inside the club and bragged to everyone that she made me do a somersault.”
Melo Sullivan is one of six Avidia Bank employees participating in the program. The others are Mikala Geurtsen, executive assistant; Molly Kelly, commercial administrative assistant; Tina Ramsey, commercial relationship officer; and Tammy Robidas, marketing assistant.
The pairings recently gathered for their second holiday party at the main office of Avidia Bank in Hudson. Last year’s party was the first time they collectively met somewhere other than the Maynard clubhouse.
“We wanted to give them a special outing, so we brought them to the bank,” Melo Sullivan explained. “They got to see where we work and it made them feel special. It was a success for both the Bigs and the Littles.”
Representatives from the bank and the agency initially met in the fall of 2013 to discuss a potential business partnership, Melo Sullivan noted.
“That spurred an internal conversation and one thing led to another,” she relayed. “We wanted to support the agency with a financial donation and also as volunteers.”
Melo Sullivan had previously considered becoming involved with BBBS because of her biological sister’s participation in the program through her employment.
“This was a good opportunity and the right timing for me,” she said. “I’m at the point where my kids are now older – one is a junior in high school and one is a sophomore in college. They’re more independent now. I enjoy spending time with kids and I like to think that I can make a difference.”
The bank employees discussed the program with a BBBS interview and match support specialist.
“We’re perfectly matched for each other,” Melo Sullivan said of the pairing. “The biggest thing is that we like hanging out together. Sometimes on a rainy day we’ll grab a shake at McDonald’s, sit at a booth, and do homework or just talk. We also like our quiet times together.”
Bigs and Littles are matched through site- or community-based programs. Most of the Bigs from Avidia Bank continue meeting weekly with their Littles at the Maynard clubhouse through the site-based program. Melo Sullivan is one of two Bigs from Avidia Bank whose meetings are now arranged through the community-based program.
“We coordinate with the parents what days and times are best for us to get together,” she explained. “Then we go out and about in the community.”
Among their recent excursions were shopping trips at the mall and attending a show at the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts in Worcester. They also spend lots of time at playgrounds.
“I’m still doing somersaults,” she shared. “And now I’ve progressed to climbing jungle gyms.”
She believes that participating in BBBS is as valuable to her as it is for Paige, now age 11.
“It makes me more appreciative of what I had and what I have,” she said. “And I get to be 11 again.”
For more information about BBBS, visit bbbscm.org.