“The City of Boston is fortunate to be rich in corporate resources that can help support the community,” said Windy Pham, Specialist – Community Relations at Encore Boston Harbor, “but cities outside of Boston, like Everett [where Encore is based] don’t necessarily have those large companies to provide resources and create vibrant communities.” Encore opened in Everett with a commitment to investing in its host community. When they learned that Big Sister Boston’s service area includes Everett and the surrounding towns and that we have a significant impact in that footprint annually, they knew that a partnership with us would be a winning bet. “We focus on improving the communities where we live and work and being a responsible corporate citizen. We want to make a difference in the lives of others by investing in local charitable organizations that improve the quality of life for community residents. “
That partnership, which launched at the beginning of this year, includes a philanthropic investment in our work, as well as provide volunteers from among Encore’s staff to support our Big and Little Sister activities, and connect us with opportunities to serve more girls in Everett. Since the partnership began this year, we have served 127 girls in Everett and the surrounding communities. One Encore staffer who was particularly happy about the partnership is Tower Suites Manager, Caitlyn Weller, who has also been a Big Sister to Little Sister Mekka since September 2014. “Encore’s investment in Big Sister Boston speaks to my values,” said Caitlyn. “It is making an impact on the community and also supports something that is personally important to me.”
Encore is also supporting relationships like Big Sister Maggie Golden and Little Sister Gaelle, 16, who lives in Everett. We matched Maggie and Gaelle in June 2017. Maggie moved to Boston from rural Pennsylvania in 2015. The following year, she decided to become a Big Sister. “Following the presidential election in 2016, I felt like I wasn’t reaching out enough to help others. I had mentored students before and always liked the personal connection that mentoring provides.” Maggie said she had no expectations of what her Little Sister would be like but wanted to be matched with an older girl because she believed that older girls should get the attention and care they deserve just as much as the younger ones.
Still new to the area, Maggie had never been to Everett when she went there to meet her Little Sister Gaelle. Both Maggie and Gaelle admitted they were nervous at that first meeting with Gaelle’s family and their Match Support Specialist. So, for their first visit one-on-one, Maggie planned an activity that would give them an opportunity to get to know each other in a way that felt natural. They went for a hike in The Fells, located near Everett; something Gaelle had never done before. “I’m not sure I’d do the hike again,” joked Gaelle, “but it was cool to try something new.” While Gaelle was more talkative during the hike, Maggie said she felt like Gaelle “was saying what she felt she should say to adults.”
Over time, though, Maggie says that Gaelle began talking to her more as a confidant and friend. She gave Gaelle the time and space needed for her to open up and feel like she could be her authentic self. They would go out to eat at different ethnic restaurants and talk about school, expectations, and friend drama over a shared meal. “The relationship just started to feel more natural,” said Gaelle, “The way Maggie treated me made me feel like I could trust her.” Feeling heard and valued by her Big Sister has bolstered Gaelle’s confidence. “She’s expressed to me that she feels much more confident than she did in the beginning of our relationship,” said Maggie. “She feels good about who she is and where she comes from.”