Danville woman is Big Sister of the Year

September 04, 2003|GARY MOYERS

It took Danville's Cindy Smith over three years to convince herself she should volunteer to become a Big Sister.

Four years since, she has been named Big Sister of the Year by the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of The Bluegrass.

"It was a nice surprise, but I feel I got an award for something that's been a gift to me," said Smith. "Matching up with Kat was fate, because we have so much in common. After one week we both knew it was a perfect match."

"Kat" is Katherine Teel, Smith's 11-year-old Little Sister. The bond between the two extends beyond the once-a-week fun time the two share.

"She really is my big sister," said Teel, a student at Bate Middle School. "We talk about everything, and we have fun together. Our talks get really deep sometimes. If I have a question or a problem, she's always there for me."


The bond goes both ways, said Smith, who is married to Junie Smith.

"She's a part of me," said Smith, a project manager at FKI Logistex in Danville. "She invites me to all her school functions, and we have so much in common. She lost her mother to cancer, I lost my dad the same way. We like a lot of the same things, and we both like to just hang out together. I look forward to our fun time on Wednesdays more than any other day of the week."

Smith, who moved to Danville seven years ago, has done volunteer work for the Boyle County Humane Society, Heart of Kentucky United Way, a German Shepherd Rescue Team and other agencies. She met Libby Suttles, regional coordinator for the four-county area of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Bluegrass which includes Boyle, Garrard, Lincoln and Mercer counties, through that volunteer work.

"I got to know Libby through United Way, and it weighed on me that maybe being a Big Sister would be something I could do to help," said Smith. "I was fortunate enough growing up to have influential women in my life, and this is a chance to pay them back."

The first time Smith and Teel met, they went to a local ice cream parlor.

"I even remember what she had," said Teel. "That minty stuff, with chocolate. I knew I liked her right off. She was easy to talk to."

Since then, the two have had slumber parties, staying up late to watch movies and eat ice cream. They go to the park, and Smith helps Teel indulge her passion for reading by making books available, and offering encouragement.

"We talk a lot on the phone," said Teel. "She's a good listener, and she always has good advice."

Suttles said Smith and Teel are representative of the matches her agency attempts to make.

"I am so thrilled for Cindy and Kat," said Suttles. "They are so good for each other, and Cindy is such a humble person. Our agency is fortunate to have her, and all our volunteers. They're all dedicated and committed."

Suttles said the local agency has 138 matches in her four-county region, and she hopes to have 150 by the end of the year. There is a waiting list of 300 children in all of the 14 counties served by Big Brothers/Big Sisters of The Bluegrass.

"We need more volunteers," said Suttles. "We have the children, and we need the adults."

Suttles can be persuasive, as Smith attests.

"She's energetic, and she's passionate about the program," said Smith. "She's why I joined."

Smith's relationship with her Little Sister is why she stays in the program.

"My life has been blessed because of Kat," she said. "She really is my little sister."

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