Editor's Note: With Santa's helpers caught up in the whirlwind of the countdown to Christmas, the Empire-Tribune set out on a quest to find gifts that bring to life the idea that when it comes to the joyous celebration, it truly is better to give than to receive. As you search high and low for that perfect gift, consider donations to any of the many service organizations in Erath County that work year-round to promote a caring and cared for community.

Twelve children mentored.

The newest of the county's social service organizations, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Erath County, officially opened it doors to "Bigs" and "Littles" in July. The organization is working to make a difference one child at a time.

Taysha Williams, regional executive director with BBBS, was hired to the helm of the Erath County office in January and announced the official opening of the organization in July when the first match was made between Big Sister Megan Parr and Little Sister Kyle Wright.

According to Williams, the Erath County program has matched more than 25 children with a mentor since July and is working daily to serve more children across the county.

The perfect match

When asked about the more than four months she has shared with her Little, Parr said the gift she gives Wright each week is one that gives back.

"It gives me the chance to step out of my life and comfort zone and be there for someone else," Parr said. "It gives me the chance to be that person that she looks up to."

And Parr said in just a couple of days a week, she steps out of her own reality and focuses solely on making a big difference in the life of her Little.

She said making a big difference is often as simple as ice cream and shared conversation or the shared beauty tips during a one-on-one makeover night.

As for the holidays, Parr said she is looking for ways to share the joys of the season with Wright, like driving across the county taking in the sights and sounds of Christmas.

She also said the girl time allows Wirght to have something that is all her own, away from her family's home and her siblings.

The perfect gift

While BBBS is working to positively impact the lives of Erath County children by providing a child with the benefits of having another caring adult in their lives, and giving them chances at a brighter future through broadened experiences, the program relies on tax deductible contributions.

And while some individuals may be lost in the idea that a dollar doesn't go very far in the current economy, Williams explained how every dollar can help. According to Williams, $25 per month helps recruit and screen volunteers, $42 per month helps sustain an existing match for one year and $83 per month will remove a Little from the waiting list and into the life of a Big.

For those looking to make an even greater impact, BBBS Erath County allows donors to give a gift that will go a long way in supporting the local program.

Williams said the Friends of Big Brothers Big Sisters includes four levels of giving - Big Friend for individuals who deliver donations of $250 or less; Big Recruiter for those giving $250 - $499; Match Supporter for those contributing $500 - $999; and Match Maker for Santa's helpers gifting $1,000 or more to BBBS.

With more than 50 Erath County children waiting to be paired with a mentor, Christmas is the perfect time to consider a donation, which can also be made in the name of one of the good boys or girls on your shopping list.

"What better gift this holiday season than to financially sponsor a child and a mentor as they start a friendship that will last a lifetime," Williams said.

If you live on a fixed budget, Parr also encourages those looking to lend a helping hand to sign up as a volunteer mentor.

"It will not only make a difference in the life of your Little, you will also find rewards in being a Big," Parr said.

And for those who only have a little time to share, Parr said every second counts. She said BBBS is also searching for short-term lunchtime buddies, who can make a big difference in only an hour or two a week.

How to donate

Monetary donations to BBBS may be delivered to 150 South Harbin Drive Suite 2, Stephenville, TX 76401.

For more information, contact Williams at 254-918-7295 or email twilliams@bbbstx.org.

About BBBS

According to the website for the local program, www.erathbbbs.org, Big Brothers Big Sisters is the oldest, largest and most effective youth mentoring organization in the United States. BBBS has been the leader in one-to-one youth service for more than a century, developing positive relationships that have a direct and lasting impact on the lives of young people. Big Brothers Big Sisters serves children, ages six through 18, in communities across the country.

The Web site also says that National research has shown the positive relationships between youth and their Big Brothers and Big Sisters have a direct and measurable impact on children’s lives. Little Brothers and Sisters are more confident in their schoolwork performance, able to get along better with their families, 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol and 52 percent less likely to skip school.