“Being with the kids fills a hole in my life,” says Dale Hermeling, Little Bit volunteer at Yeatman-Liddell Middle School. The attorney and empty nester has connected with the middle schoolers, experiencing the same satisfaction as his days coaching youth sports. “The students all look up to him and just think he’s cool,” says volunteer Jeanne Flood of the towering ex-college football player. Hermeling has known Flood and volunteer Connie Sigmund for years and by complete coincidence was teamed up with the pair in Little Bit’s first year at Yeatman, which is home to 350+ 6th-8th graders from the O’Fallon neighborhood of North city. The team has created perfect chemistry with each other, the students and staff, adapting to the unique physical and emotional needs of young people just developing into adults.
“At this age, they’re learning to advocate for their needs while desiring more privacy. We give them that space and, with a little guidance, they generally make good decisions,” says Flood. She tells the story of a student who tried on a coat and instantly fell in love. When asked if she wanted to look over the racks for a second jacket, she questioned “Why would I need two coats?”
“More than stuff” are not hollow words for Little Bit, says Flood. “What many of the students need most are comfort and encouragement,” she says, using the example of a student new to the school who was recovering from a gunshot wound to the head. After setting him up with everything he needed at that time, Flood offered him some Halloween candy to share with his friends. “He said simply that he no friends at the school. I reminded him that we were there to be his friends.”
“And we will be there,” guarantees Sigmund, “because it’s in these moments that we build trust and credibility.” In her second year volunteering, Sigmund says she’s been humbled to see the home life of many of the students. “There’s so much healing that could take place with better understanding.”