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Big Brother of the Year

Gauerke impacting a child’s life for nine years

By Robert Cloud

Tim Gauerke has been a Big Brother to the same youth for nine years.

He has watched and helped him grow, learn new skills and develop into a young man.

Gauerke was named the 2014 Big Brother of the Year by the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Fox Valley Region.

The regional group covers four counties and works with 400 adult mentors and their children.

Gauerke, who owns Chain O’ Lakes Cabinetry on Main Street in Waupaca, has three children of his own. The youngest just turned 21.

“I’ve had the same Little Brother since I started nine years ago,” Gauerke said. “Matt is now 17 years old and a junior at Waupaca High School.”

Gauerke spends about one to two hours per week with his Little Brother.

“We go to Hartman Creek. We’ve gone hiking, biking and camping,” Gauerke said. “Our favorite activity is probably skipping stones.”

Gauerke has also employed Matt at his business, refurbishing the historic building.

They stripped the floor down four layers to the original wood floor that dates back to the 1890s. They removed newer, drop-down ceilings until they uncovered the original ceiling.

They also found the individually forged square nails that were used prior to 1898 when mass-produced wire nails were first introduced to construction.

“He helped with the work,” Gauerke said. “I’m teaching him man skills, how to use a hammer and a saw, the things a lot of our fathers taught us.”

Gauerke said Matt has since found a job on his own, using Gauerke as a reference.

Lori Altraide, the lead match specialist for the Fox Valley Big Brothers Big Sisters, said there are 15 active matches in the Waupaca area. Nine of the matches were formed in May 2015.

“ThedaCare’s Chat Team did a community life survey and in almost every conversation the need for mentoring came up,” Altraide said.

To be initially referred to the program, the children must be 6 to 13 years old. Once a child is matched, he or she may remain in the program until they turn 18 or graduate from high school.

Every summer, Big Brothers Big Sisters sponsors a summer picnic at the Fox Cities Stadium. The mentors, children and their parents attend for free. Food, games, prizes and Timber Rattlers baseball are among the event’s activities.

On April 16, Big Brothers Big Sisters will sponsor Bowl for Kids’ Sake, a community fundraiser that will be held at Waupaca Bowl.

Big Brothers Big Sisters also needs more mentors in the Waupaca area.

“Right now, we have nine boys who are still on the waiting list for a match,” Altraide said. “It’s a real gift to the kids. These boys who have applied are eager to be matched.”

Mentors must be over 15 years old, and there is no cap on how old they can be. The oldest mentor in the Fox Valley region is 87.

All mentors are interviewed and screened prior to approval. The organization wants to ensure the safety of the children and ensure that the adult is a good role model.

“We have one of the most extensive background screenings of any agency,” Altraide said. “Because of that it does take time.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters remains in contact with the match, offering support, ideas for activities, tickets to professional sports games and solutions to problems that may develop in the child’s personal or academic life.

“Once a match is made, we monitor the growth and changing needs of the youth,” Altriade said. “We have contact monthly the first year and contact quarterly thereafter.”

Gauerke said he feels blessed to be a part of Matt’s life, and to be able to give back to the community.

“There’s 168 hours in a week,” Gauerke said. “Can you give just one hour to help change a kid’s life?”

For more information about Big Brothers Big Sisters, visit www.bbbsfver.org or call 920-739-3542.

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