Abel was 24-years-old at the time of the organization’s inception and was serving as a probation officer while also being involved in the Washington Jaycees. He became aware of the need for a mentoring program such as Big Brother Big Sister through his work as probation officer. Later he and Don Roach were assigned as project chairmen and were able to get a start in what would eventually lead to Friends for Kids as we know it today.
Abel, who joined Margaret Clause as past organization directors in attendance, both agreed that they “were amazed the organization had survived all these years.”
Mr. Abel spoke much about the early history of the organization and said “he feels the organization owes its early success to many different individuals” including the likes of Margaret Scott, a newspaper reporter at the time, who was always most helpful in alerting the public of the organization and its mission.
Ron Tieken was the first volunteer to be matched with a child in the new venture and Julie (Gill) Blubaum was the first female volunteer to be matched. JoAnn Donaldson was the first volunteer caseworker. “All of these, and others too numerous to mention, were instrumental in laying the groundwork to what we have today.”
As evident by the number of attendees who were once in the program as children, the organization does have a lasting impact on both Bigs and Littles. Lois Schnarr, a volunteer for over 20 years, has had four separate matches with young girls and as current director Laura Sims stated “has been an invaluable asset to what we do, and have done, over the years.”
Chris Clark, another adult volunteer, who has been in the organization for many years spoke of how her daughter Chelsea and her volunteered to spend time with three girls at once in the program. “It is a wonderful experience for someone looking for a mother/daughter project to do together. Chelsea and I really enjoyed this. We would go on “pretend” trips to Hawaii with our girls, even going shopping and “pretending” to buy things we would need for the trip.”