Meals and Mentoring:
Once a week when school’s in session, Howard Bank office manager Yvonne Carter has lunch with a fourth grader at Guilford Elementary.
A volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Maryland’s Bigs In School program, she says she benefits from the weekly lunch dates as much as her “little sister” does. And she’s making good on a longstanding promise.
Carter’s husband passed way when she was just 29. Suddenly, she was the single mom of three — a newborn and two- and six-year-olds.
“My children truly benefited from the relationships they developed with their ‘big friends’ — these were friends, family members and coworkers who spent time with them, mentored and encouraged them and made a difference in their lives,” she says.
“At that point in my life I was not in a position where I could return the favors or offer assistance to anyone else; my life was much too hectic. But I made a promise to both the Lord and myself that if and when my situation changed, I would pass it on.”
Eighteen years later, she’s “passing it on” by packing a bag lunch every Monday and joining her little sister, Tirazheh, for an hour of lunch, math games and conversation.
The Bigs In School program provides one-to-one mentoring at elementary and middle school schools, in partnership with businesses, universities, high schools and individuals. Carter is one of seven volunteers from Howard Bank.
Carter visits with her little sister during her lunch hour on Mondays. She says she chose Bigs In School because it fits into her schedule better then the full Big Brothers Big Sisters Community program.
“She’s adorable,” Carter says of her little sister. “And she’s an awesome artist. She loves to draw animals, especially cats.”
“It a great hour. I enjoy her company. I know it truly benefits me as much as it does her. My kids are grown, and I miss the interaction with children.”
But Howard Bank encourages volunteerism, even if it’s done on company time.
“The bank’s whole philosophy is that we want to give back to the community,” Carter says. Bank president Mary Ann Scully “is probably the most philanthropic person I’ve ever met. She’s involved in many organizations and her efforts make a difference — you can see that.”
Bank employees are making a difference, too. There are seven Howard Bank employees who volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Bigs In School program, all of which are currently matched. Last year, 10 Howard Bank employees painted a group home owned by The Arc of Howard County, and during the holidays staff members purchased, wrapped and delivered gifts for 10 local children.Howard Bank is the county’s only locally owned and managed community bank. With community involvement as part of its mission statement, its executives are required to serve on the board of at least one local non-profit. It also supports more than 50 local community organizations with financial support and volunteer leadership.