Ally Cameron

Ally Cameron

Celebrating ‘National Volunteer Week’ in the community

A lasting friendship is formed through Big Brothers, Big Sisters

Successful communities like Lacombe and Blackfalds would not be what they are today if hard-working residents had not stepped up to make their communities a better place to be.

Volunteers come in all shapes, sizes, ages and have different ideas, beliefs and hobbies, but they ALL have one thing in common when a need arises, they roll up their sleeves and get busy. Our communities are lucky to be ‘home’ to so many like-minded citizens.

Lacombe has always been known for its generous community, whether that is generosity in hospitality, diversity, and monetary donations or by way of its volunteers.

In Lacombe alone, there are quite a few organizations that thrive upon having volunteers join the team; one of these organizations includes Big Brothers, Big Sisters with volunteers such as Joey and Marti Ingram.

The couple, prior to joining the organization, lived in Lethbridge where Marti explained she always wanted to volunteer with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, but she wasn’t able to commit to the volunteer time.

“I’ve always wanted to volunteer for Big Brothers when I lived in Lethbridge, and I wanted to do it down there but you had to commit to a year and because I was only a student, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do that. So as soon as we moved to Lacombe that’s one of the first things that I did.”

Both Joey and Marti joined up at the same time, being one of the very few coupled matches in the organization.

It was at the first meeting brunch where all ‘Little’s’ got together with their matched ‘Big’s’ to see if they would get along, and initially, this was when the Ingram’s met their Little, Aleta ‘Ally’ Cameron. The pair immediately took to the girl and vice-versa, and they have been paired ever since.

The now 14-year-old girl was matched with the couple four years ago, and Ally said that she has had so much fun learning and growing with the Ingrams and being a part of the lives of both the couple and their two children, Avy and Parker.

“They just make me feel like I have a family away from my actual family,” said Ally.

“I would never have gotten the chance to meet such a great girl like Ally if we didn’t do it,” explained Joey. “So again, it’s just all the stuff that she’s given us like getting to help raise our kids and that. Like Avy thinks of Ally as a sister basically, so for that, we have one more person in our lives that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

There are two levels of mentorship included in the organization, in-school mentorship which requires meeting with the Little once a week for one hour in a school setting during the day or there’s the traditional meets, explained Marti. The traditional meets means that the matches meet up once a week for two hours for at least a year.

“A lot of the times we go over the two hours. Our second meet we actually watched the Chronicles of Narnia and it was like a three-hour movie and her mother didn’t really know me very well but I asked her if I could keep her daughter for another hour,” Marti laughed. “Ally actually ended up falling asleep on the couch.”

The energetic couple enjoys volunteering for Big Brothers and Big Sisters because they both believe that no matter how long you do it for, and no matter how many Little’s you have, it is always clear that you are helping out no matter the capacity.

“I like Big Brothers because it’s like a permanent thing, like even if you only do the one year, you’ve still impacted a child quite significantly,” said Marti. Joey also agreed with the statement.

“No matter what you choose to do, you’ll always get back more than what you put in, just do something that you’re passionate about it. Some people do it just because they want to build up their resume. But you have to really love what you’re doing in order to make it work.”

Not only has the couple put numerous amounts of hours into positively affecting the life of their Little, but they have also devoted some of their time to positively affecting the organization itself, explained Executive Director Crystal Zens, who said Joey has been a board member of Big Brothers, Big Sisters since 2011 and is currently the organization’s treasurer.

“This couple has given an extraordinary amount of heart and time to the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization,” added Zens. “They’re really dedicated and go beyond the requirements of a mentor and they volunteer in many different capacities and they are really committed to their little sister and are great examples of a successful match.”

Zens explained that volunteers have certain personalities, certain traits that make them well suited to the job, and along with these traits comes the ability to selflessly donate time and energy to different projects.

“Having an open heart, being empathetic and being committed as well.”

Along with Joey’s prominent presence on the board of directors, Marti has also been involved with the organization in a more business-type capacity including the planning committee for the Great Big Christmas Dinner and helping with fundraising wherever there is need, according to Zens.

Although Ally will be required to retire her name as a ‘Little’ when she turns 18-years-old, neither she nor the Ingrams plan on ending the relationship that they have built over the many years.

“They are allowed to be in the program until they’re 18 and then we can continue the relationship, we’re just not under the umbrella of Big Brothers, Big Sisters, we can stay friends and hang out and that’s totally what we plan on doing.”

The couple agrees that volunteering is very important, to Big Brothers, Big Sisters as well as all other volunteer-based organizations in the community. Marti said, when asked what she would tell those who are interested in volunteering, to “Just do it, it’s so rewarding.”

Just last year, Big Brothers, Big Sisters logged 11,639 hours for Lacombe and County, which was an agency high.

The work from 577 volunteers including school mentors, community mentors, Kids and Kops, Go Girls program, administration volunteers, fundraising, committee volunteers, board members and Days of Caring volunteer teams.