‘They make a difference’: Hartford family highlights special mentors during Volunteer Month


HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– April is National Volunteer Month. One Hartford family is taking the time to highlight special volunteers in their lives. Volunteers that have made a special difference during the pandemic.

Meet Lennox, Nigel, Lawrence, and Leo, ages 6 through 9. Now, imagine this household with homeschool and two working parents.

“They get distracted when they’re around each other all the time and that was the main thing,” said Nija Saunders, their mother.

Nija Saunders says her boys were missing outside social interaction. So she got proactive and joined Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters to ensure the younger boys were matched with “bigs” or volunteer mentors.

“I work from home now and I still do my eight hours a day and I’m still trying to be mom. My husband’s trying to be dad. It helps when you have that mentor that is also helping them as well, especially through the pandemic,” said Saunders.

April is National Volunteer Month and the Saunders want to highlight volunteers like Phil Getzen, a Big to 7-year-old Leo. The pair focused on building a friendship at the same time society was shutting down due to the coronavirus.

“Our meeting became more frequent because they turned into virtual meetings. I turned more into hanging out instead of what events are we looking at. I think that gave us a chance to just start connecting,” said Getzen.

The kids like hanging out with their Bigs and the feeling is mutual.

“It’s just been great to have Leo as a friend and every time I hang out with him, I leave feeling excited,” said Getzen.

A reminder that being a volunteer mentor isn’t always about filling a void in a child’s life, but being a friend and source of encouragement outside of the home and in uncertain times.

“They make a difference,” said Saunders.

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