Herald JournalHerald Journal, Sept. 1, 2003

'Sisters' in a different way

By Julie Yurek

Every other Saturday, Julie Thiesen of Winsted can be found hanging out with her "little sister" Abby Martin, 9, of Lester Prairie.

More than two years ago, Thiesen became a Big Sister to Martin. Martin is the daughter of Pam Green and Glenn Martin.

The duo have much in common, which is why they were paired together. Both have a love of animals, fishing, watching movies, and going to plays.

Thiesen got involved in the program because she was looking for something to participate in. She searched the Internet and found Partners in Friendship in Hutchinson, which is now called Big Brothers Big Sisters, she said.

Big Brothers Big Sisters started in 1904 in New York City.

It currently serves thousands of children in 5,000 communities across the nation, according to the Big Brothers Big Sisters web site at www.bbbsa.org.

"It's been a lot of fun. It's rewarding. I would recommend it to anyone," Thiesen said.

To get started, Thiesen completed a background check and an interview, which was mostly for identifying likes and dislikes when it came time to pair with a child, she said.

When Partners in Friendship was replaced by Big Brothers Big Sisters, she did have to go through another interview, she said.

Martin has been in the program since she was little, she said.

Her family has been involved for about 10 years, she speculated. Her older brothers Glenn, Tim, and Caleb were all little brothers and she tagged along with them until she met Thiesen, she said. She also has three older sisters, Naomi and Shannon Martin, and Molly (Martin) Smith, who is in the Army.

Thiesen and Martin get together about two times per month, Thiesen said.

"I look forward to it. It's easy to fit into my schedule," she said.

Thiesen works full time at Faribault Foods in Cokato. She was employed at Sterner Lighting for 17 years until layoffs this year.

Some activities that Martin and Thiesen do when they're together include watching movies, going to the fairs, going for walks, and hanging out at Thiesen's house, where Martin plays with Thiesen's dog Chevy and cats. She also has a cockatiel named Spike.

Sometimes they go to Steve Nowak's farm in Silver Lake where Martin can ride horse, and see the other animals including geese, ducks, and cows. Thiesen is a friend of Nowak.

Martin hopes to use her love for animals in a career someday, she said.

The two are also trying to teach each other new skills. Thiesen has showed Martin how to crochet a few times, and Martin showed Thiesen how to latch hook, Martin said.

"Julie's like an older friend," Martin said. "I like someone to hang out with."

"It's more of a friendship than a sister relationship. She already has sisters," Thiesen said.

Sometimes Martin brings a friend with to Thiesen's house, Martin said.

The big activity of the summer was when Thiesen took Martin to the Sound of Music at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre. They try to do one event in the summer that is bigger than the rest.

"It was cool," Martin said. She was a little skeptical about the idea because she knew the movie was "old."

The pair also attended activities put on by Partners in Friendship, such as a fishing trip, Christmas party, and going to the Nelson Farm in Litchfield, Thiesen said. Big Brothers Big Sisters had a picnic this spring too.

It's a chance for the mentors and children to meet each other, Thiesen said.

For more information about the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, contact the Hutchinson office at (320) 587-8164.

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