Sharon's Mentor Story from Partners For Schools on Vimeo.
When Sharon Butler heard her name called as the recipient of Peoples Bank’s 2018 Community Stewardship Award, she was completely floored. “I had no idea. I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t know if I would make it to the stage,” Sharon recalls of that moment. Sharon’s dedication to various community service organizations – and particularly with Be the One, a Lynden-based mentorship program – clearly made an impression upon her colleagues who nominate and vote for the annual award recipient.
Be the One was founded on the idea that every successful young person has in his or her life at least one stable relationship with a caring adult. The organization pairs volunteer mentors with middle and high school students, and each mentor meets with his or her mentee for one hour per week during the school year. It was through another Peoples Bank employee that Sharon first found out about Be the One, and her interest was immediately piqued. “Bob Fraser, here in Lynden, volunteered with Be the One for about a year,” Sharon recalls. “One day he came in looking all sweaty when I thought he’d been at lunch. I asked, ‘Where have you been?’ and he said, ‘I’ve been playing basketball with some kids!’ Then he explained it to me and I thought ‘Oh wow, that would be awesome! Who doesn’t have an hour each week to invest in someone’s life?’” Sharon decided then and there to get involved and was soon matched with a middle school student. At the time, Sharon could hardly have known that this relationship would continue for nearly four years, and that she would be helping to guide her mentee through important life transitions along the way. “She’s like a daughter to me now,” Sharon says of her young friend.
Having grown up in a military family that moved around a great deal, Sharon has considerable empathy for young people whose circumstances may be somewhat unstable. As Sharon explains it, the kids in the Be the One program may be dealing with anything from serious personal or family problems to simply being the new kid in school. As a mentor, Sharon defines her most important role as being someone who can meet them where they are in life and support them without judgment. “You’re not in there to solve their problems or to judge them,” she says. “They already have their parents and their grandparents and their counselors. You’re just basically there to listen. Play games with them. Listen. Go for a walk. Share your own experiences.”
In addition to working with the Be the One organization, Sharon is a regular volunteer at the Bellingham Community Meal Program and has a long history of involvement with the Red Cross. Asked what drives her to volunteer her time, Sharon said, “I just feel that it takes so little to change anything in life.”
Being part of the community is also very important to Sharon and representing Peoples Bank as a commercial lending assistant in the Lynden branch also means a lot. “This is where Peoples Bank first set down its roots in Washington nearly 100 years ago. It has created a real sense of security and friendship for the community,” says Sharon. “Even though I didn’t grow up here, I feel right at home. The management at Peoples Bank wants us to be involved in the community not for gain, but because we, as an organization, care about people. There are many employees here who have worked for the company for more than 30 years. It’s a phenomenal place to work.”
While Sharon’s original mentee from Be the One recently transitioned out of the program, the two have stayed in touch. Sharon has been matched with a new student and plans to continue her involvement with Be the One. She is also hopeful that the attention brought to this organization by the Community Stewardship Award may attract more volunteers to the program from within Peoples Bank.