Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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April 28, 2012

75-year-old Big Sister mentors Galveston Elementary students

LOGANSPORT — What’s a teacher to do in retirement? One decided to mentor elementary students. And she’s done it every year for the last 15 years.

There are roughly six decades between Elaine Brown, 75, and the three children she mentors each week. Brown has visited elementary schools in Galveston and Logansport for the last 15 years just to show love and attention to children.

Brown and the children are part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cass County in-school program called “Local Heroes.” It’s similar to the traditional matching program but is contained within a child’s school setting.

A mentor meets with a child for an hour each week during a school day to act as a constructive role model in the child’s life. Together, “Local Heroes” and the traditional matching program receive almost a third of their funding from United Way of Cass County, according to April Zartman, local BBBS executive director.

Once a third-grade teacher at Galveston Elementary School, Brown retired in 1997. She decided to volunteer as a Local Hero about a year later, when a representative from the organization spoke at a gathering of retired teachers and piqued her interest.

Now she helps her protégés with homework or keeps them company at lunch once a week. She’s done so every year since she started and estimates she has mentored 10 children, following several of them all through elementary school.

“Some of the other kids tease them and say, ‘Is that your grandmother?’” Brown said, chuckling.

She may not be theirs, but she does have 10 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren to keep up with. Most of them live nearby.

And she loves being surrounded by so many young people.

“I’m a child at heart,” Brown said. “If I’m with a group of kids, I just get down on the floor and do things with them.”

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