When Big Brother volunteer Joe Butler asked his Little Brother Michael Rivera, of Revere, about Kelly’s on Revere Beach, Rivera looked at him with a puzzled expression.
“What’s Kelly’s?” he asked.
Without another word, Butler, 28, gave his Little Brother a little advice and some tasty fried clams that he hasn’t yet forgotten.
“I brought him to Kelly’s on Revere Beach for one of our times together because he had never been to Kelly’s,” said Butler in a recent interview. “I told him, ‘How can you live in Revere and not know about Kelly’s on the Beach?’ He didn’t even know it was such a popular restaurant on his own city’s shoreline. I had to show him what he was missing and now he begs his mother to go there all the time and he loves Kelly’s. We laugh about it a lot now.”
Butler, a real estate manager and broker from Malden, volunteered for the Big Brother program last year and was paired up with Rivera in April. Since that time, the two have taken several trips to have fun and to provide a mentoring male relationship.
Right now, which is National Mentoring Month, the Big Brothers are looking for more volunteers from the Revere area, and there are numerous teen-age boys who are waiting to be paired up in the program with a positive male role model.
The commitment is only a few hours a month – at the minimum – and the rewards are potentially lifesaving.
Statistics provided by the organization show that after spending 18 months with a Big Brother or Big Sister, young people in the program are 46 percent less likely to use illegal drugs than their counterparts not in the program.
They are also 52 percent less likely to skip school, 33 percent less likely to hit someone, and 27 percent less likely to use alcohol.
Rivera, 14, and Butler have gone to the Zoo, to the Museum of Science, they’ve gone bowling and they’ve even had a pretty competitive game of football at Harry Della Russo Stadium.
One time, Butler was even able to help out by driving Rivera to a school dance when he had no other way to get there.
“I felt bad because he doesn’t have a Dad and he’s in a very feminine environment,” said Butler. “With his mothers and sisters, there aren’t a lot of men in his household. So, any time I can get him out and be a good male role model, it’s a good thing.
“Becoming a Big Brother is a very easy thing and I urge anyone who is thinking about it not to hesitate,” he added. “A lot of people seem concerned about the time commitment, but I don’t find it to be a constraint. The time commitment is well worth it. I don’t consider it a burden at all. I consider it good time spent with a good friend.”
Butler said he plans to continue the relationship for many years, as long as Rivera is agreeable to that.
“Definitely I have a new friend and I hope it’s going to be a long-term thing,” he said. “I’m definitely in it for the long haul – a lifelong friend that I can talk to and bounce questions off of, someone who can always give me a young person’s perspective on things…I have had a lot of good male mentors in my life to guide me along the way, and I thought now was a good time for me to give back and teach a young kid the lessons I’ve learned from my mentors. I hope to give him a positive outlook on life for many years.”
One Big Brother team that has stood the test of time is Bill Davison and Revere’s Nathaniel Gonzalez. The two have been paired since 2004, going back to when Nathanial was only 6.
He is now 14.
Last year, out of 1,400 volunteers, Davison was one of only a few finalists as Big of the Year.
Davison, of Charlestown, said he took early retirement in 2003 from a Boston computer services company, and decided he wanted to do volunteer work.
One place he went was Big Brothers.
The duo has gone to see Shakespeare in the Park, to a Bob Dylan concert and even on a trip to London.
“Nathaniel is Colombian and he is open to doing all sorts of things,” said Davison. “My son is a teacher in London and I took Nathaniel when I went to visit family. So, for a couple of days, this little Colombian kid from Revere went to school in London…I tend to do things with him that he otherwise might not do. That has been the routine.”
The two have gotten together on most Saturdays since Nathaniel was little, and Davison said it has been very extraordinary to watch Nathaniel grow up from a boy to a teen-ager.
In that time, they have gone from having a fun time every week to having more of a constructive time.
“Nathaniel is very bright and he is a very good and serious student,” said Davison. “His mother is terrific and I like her a lot, but they live in a small place and the environment isn’t great for him to get down to serious studying. I don’t like to say he comes over to do his homework, but nowadays I often provide him a quiet place where he does his homework and gets on with it. He’s a very determined little boy – though I guess he’s not a little boy anymore.”
Davison said that he knows he has provided Nathaniel with some unique experiences, yet the relationship has been anything but one sided.
“Sometimes people say, ‘You’re doing a great thing here, Bill,’” said Davison. “The thing is it’s been as beneficial for me as it has been for him…We often do things that he wouldn’t normally do and now I’ve started doing things as a result of his influence that I wouldn’t normally do. He’s a great kid.”
For more information on the Big Brother program, contact the organization at (617) 542-9090.