South Ender receives honors as Big Brother of the Year

Earl Lawsen of Langley has been named “Big Brother of the Year” for his volunteer work as a ‘Big’ for Darien. - Photo courtesy of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County
Earl Lawsen of Langley has been named “Big Brother of the Year” for his volunteer work as a ‘Big’ for Darien.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County

Earl Lawsen of Langley was named “Big Brother of the Year” for being there when a young boy needed him the most.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County recently showed its appreciation for its volunteers at its annual volunteer and donor appreciation celebration at the Oak Harbor Yacht Club.

Lawsen stepped in when his Little Brother Darien’s longtime Big Sister passed away at the end of last year.

“We knew Darien needed a special new ‘Big,’” said Peggy Dyer, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County.

Lawsen was asked by board member Cynthia Shelton to become a Big Brother to Darien and the pair was matched in South Whidbey’s school-based program. They hit it off from the start.

“Darien enjoyed his time with Earl so much that Darien requested the match transfer to a community-based match as soon as school was out for the summer, allowing them to do more activities together outside of school,” she said. “Darien is always talking about Earl and the great experiences he has with him.”

Dyer said Lawsen stepped up when Darien needed him most and that’s what it is all about; Big Brothers Big Sisters brings together kids and adults to form fun relationships that help both grow.

“Earl stepped in at a difficult time in Darien’s life and he quickly became a very important person to him,” Dyer said.

In addition to Lawsen, several north Whidbey volunteers were honored, including Big Sister Cindy Derting, Big Brother Kevin Sparks and Big Brother Karl Igler.

“Volunteer mentors are the lifeblood of our organization,” Dyer said. “They spend hundreds of hours with the child they are matched with, exploring new activities and experiences, bringing new perspectives into their lives.”

Volunteers are chosen as “Bigs of the Year” when they go above and beyond what the organization asks of them, and begin to look at the child as a friend that they don’t want to miss spending time with, she added.

The organization also recognized volunteers who supported the organization by donating staff time, skills or money.

“We are so lucky to have volunteers that recognize they can help in many ways and offer support to Big Brothers Big Sisters through office support, assistance in a fundraiser or are willing to go out and talk to others about their experience in an effort to recruit more wonderful mentors,” Dyer said.

Duane Sisto was honored for his upkeep of the agency’s computer system and Web site; James Winchester has helped as grant writer and researcher; Becky King was recognized for being the bookkeeper for the organizations main fundraiser Festival of Trees for the past 10 years; and Lance Kohler and Mike Kummerfeldt were honored as scholarship donors. For the past two years, their business, Tri Paces, began direct funding for a scholarship that is awarded to outstanding youths involved in the program.

Big Brothers Big Sisters awarded the scholarships to outstanding high school “Bigs” this year. Oak Harbor High School students Catherine Filoteo and Clarissa Theil got this year’s scholarships worth $600.

“In the case of the high school volunteers who receive the scholarships, there is a concerted effort on the part of Big Brothers Big Sisters to recognize youth leadership and the role they have played in our community to being a positive influence to a younger child,” Dyer said.

“It is our belief that they are making our community a better place by guiding these young people in positive ways. To a younger child, having a high school friend is very influential and may change their decisions in a positive way.”

At the end of the event, Mac and Elaine McDowell donated $600 each year for the next 10 years.

Dyer said that means that there is enough scholarship money to give awards to both South End and North End kids.

“Mac and Elaine McDowell’s contribution was so genuine and heartfelt,” Dyer said. “They offered a scholarship of $600 each year for the next 10 years. It is wonderful to have them support scholarships through our program, as they are often received by those who need it the most.”

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