Clem Sorely is a 91-year-old retired Presbyterian minister who knows how to make a difference.
And it only takes him one hour a week to do it.
Clem is part of a Big Brothers Big Sisters program — the first to take place in a retirement community. Launched in 2007, the program at Grace Presbyterian Village in Dallas quickly became a prototype for five other retirement communities.
There was some skepticism at first about how this would work.
Traditionally, Bigs go to the Littles to spend time with them. But at Grace Presbyterian Village, the Littles come to the Bigs. They arrive by van every other week to spend an hour with their mentors and play games, make crafts, talk about homework and challenges and enjoy a good lunch.
That’s how 9-year-old Quaylon, described by his teachers as “very active and extroverted,” came to be matched with a 91-year-old who zips around the Village on a red scooter. School counselor Genita Wrighter describes the pair this way: “Watching Clem Sorley interact with Quaylon Logan is similar to watching the sunrise and the sunset.” Over the years, Wrighter has watched many Bigs successfully mentor Littles. “However,” she says, “To witness the interaction and see the transformation of Quaylon has been spiritually moving. This was the perfect match!”
When you ask Clem what he does, it sounds very simple. “I just talk to Quaylon like a dad. We talk about what’s good and bad in his life and how I can help make a difference.”
If Cheryl Hanson had a wish, it would be for dozens more volunteers like Clem. As Match and Program Support Specialist for BBBS, she nominated him for Big Brother of the Year with these sentiments: “Big Brother Clem Sorley is 91 years old … Not only does he see his Little Brother at his retirement center, he also has gone with the group to Little’s school! Likewise, he has also accompanied his Little Brothers on field trips arranged by the BBBS. In the 32 months that Clem has been a Big, he has gone through medical issues and lost his wife, Marilyn; however, Clem has always shown up with a smile on his face and a positive attitude!
How much difference does one hour really make? Research shows the national urban school average for high school graduation is 50-60 percent. For Littles, that figure jumps to an 87 percent graduation rate.
Quaylon isn’t concerned with statistics. When he heard about Clem’s award, he took the time to write this note:
“Clem is a great Big Brother and tells a lot of jokes. He always cheers me up when I’m so sad. When we meet we always have fun talking to each other and playing games. Our favorite games are Sorry, Connect Four and playing cards. Clem is my Big Brother but he is also like a dad to me. I love him because he understands me, helps me to do better and want to be better.”
Quaylon likes knowing he has something to give too. In his words:
I also help Clem when he needs help. I pour him a drink of water, put the sugar in his tea and get games he enjoys playing as well. We are pals I help him and he help me. I know Clem love me and I love Clem. Hey Clem Congratulations on winning Big of the Year you really deserve it and I am proud of you. Thank you for making me become a better person.”
If you would like to know more about making a difference through a program like the one used at Grace Presbyterian Village and Presbyterian Village North, we invite you to contact Sabrina Porter, vice president of resident and community relations for Presbyterian Communities and Services at [email protected] or 214-413-4128.
Gloria Beard is marketing coordinator of Presbyterian Communities and Services in Irving, Texas.