Changing lives for over 30 years!

When I was nine years old I became a "little sister" in the Big Sisters program of Neenah-Menasha.  I didn't know very much about what this meant, but my neighbor had observed my family life and encouraged my mother to sign me up.

All I know is December 7, 1973 I met the person who is now one of the most important people in my life.  Her name is Pat Van Zeeland.  I didn't realize how much I would need her and what an incredible influence she would have on my life.  One year later, almost to the day, my mother died in an alcohol-related accident.  My mother's name was also Pat.  Her much troubled life came to an end at the age of 38.  From then on I lived with my father, brother and sister.  The issues of alcohol and divorce continued for many years.  But through it all, from the age of 9 on, I had a consistent person in my life.  I had my special friend Pat Van Zeeland.

Pat was like a raft in a turbulent sea.  When I knew we were going to get together I counted the hours.  We didn't always do expensive or unique things, just normal stuff, and that's what a kid like me needed.  Most importantly, I would talk and she would listen.  She was never judgmental or negative, she either offered positive advice or kept quiet.  She remembered every birthday and Christmas and there was always a card telling me to "be good" or a beautifully wrapped package containing a much thought about gift.  She and her familiy made me feel smart, loved and welcome.

Through the 7 years that it took me to get through college for Art, Pat helped me.  When I finally walked across the stage to receive that diploma, she received it also.   Without her it never would have happened.

Without the Best Friends agency to bring Pat into my life I know that I wouldn't of come this far.  Grants provided by Best Friends helped pay for books, paints and summer school.  In 1985 I became an adult friend in the program.  I wanted to give back some of what I received.  It is amazing the difference that one caring person can make.  It has been almost 40 years now that I have known Pat and I still talk to her every week.  When I look how far I've come, I can only be thankful to Best Friends for helping me in such a wonderful way.

 

"Jacob"

Throughout high school, I have been faced with challenges and struggles at home. My mother has the AIDS virus and couldn't take care of me financially. My grandmother raised me, but when I was 11 she had serious health issues. My uncle came up from the streets of Kansas City where he was a homeless meth user, to take care of her. When I was 13 she passed away and it changed my life forever. My uncle was supposed to return to Kansas City, but instead he stayed to raise me. I struggled with the drastic changes during my freshman and sophomore years. I had to quickly mature. My junior year Neenah High started a welding class. I never would have thought it was for me, but after my first class I was hooked and still am to this very day. At first welding was a science, and I studied how the process works and how to do it the best. Then I found myself making what I call "personal projects", and I fell in love with the art of welding. I enjoy challenging myself to make anything and everything I can. It is a stress reliever and a career. Now in my senior year, I have found another stress reliever; running. I love to run, it helps me think and calm down along with staying in shape. Although welding and running are good things individually, they've leaked into the rest of my life helping me grow as an individual. I weld, and I find myself helping others on projects when I can. I run, and I find myself building up my dreams for my future. I don't just dream to be a welder, I dream to be a great welder; to be the best I can and make an impact. I don't want to just survive anymore, I want to live life to its fullest. My freshman year I had nothing but hopes of graduating, and now I'm on the verge of graduating, with so much more ahead of me.

welding project

Thank You!

...Thank you from a messy, sassy 9 year old who would have gone astray if it hadn't been for the "Pat on her back."  Thank you for all the "little people" that you are helping everyday.  I know God sent me Pat - but he used Best Friends to do it...

After-School Match

Please click the link below for a short video from one of our After-School Matches.

Jordan & Avery