07 Jan
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Big Brother Celebrates National Mentoring Month By Recruiting Other Mentors Just Like Him

Vinnie DiNatale has been a Big Brother (adult mentor) with Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters for the past ten years. During that time, Vinnie, a resident of West Hartford, has mentored two boys. He mentored his first Little Brother – Nick from Glastonbury – for seven years until Nick aged out of the program. Right now, Vinnie is matched with a 10-year-old named Ezekiel, who comes from a single-parent New Britain home.

“Ezekiel’s a terrific kid,” Vinnie says. “His mom has 5 other children, two girls and three boys. Her husband passed away a couple of years ago. All her kids have mentors from Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters. What Nutmeg is doing for that family, the way it’s making their lives better, I think is a pretty amazing thing.”

As a veteran Big Brother, Vinnie has seen firsthand the benefit mentoring has for children in need, their families and their communities. It’s one reason he’s made it a personal goal to recruit as many mentors as possible for Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters during National Mentoring Month, which runs each year from January 1 through January 31.

“I’ve been spreading the word to friends, family members and people at work,” Vinnie says. “I tell them that you don’t need special education to be a mentor. You just have to be reliable and care about the well-being of children. Mentoring is fun. It only takes between 6 – 10 hours a month. And it makes you feel great about yourself. The best part is, you get to do things you haven’t done for years – like slide down a snowy hill on a sled. Or, take a few hours on a Saturday to go see an animated film that, as a grown-up, you wouldn’t normally choose to see.”

Recruiting mentors during National Mentoring Month isn’t the only time Vinnie has pitched in to lend a hand to Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters. For the past seven years, Vinnie has been the heart and soul behind a holiday toy collection for the child mentoring organization he calls “Cram the Van”.

“One of my jobs is as a school bus driver in Glastonbury,” Vinnie explains. “Over the years, I’ve made a lot of strong connections in town. What I do every December with “Cram the Van”, I spend a lot of time telling people about it for weeks before the actual date. On the Saturday we decide to do it, I park the van – sometimes a couple of vans – at the Irving gas station on Main St. Then, people drop by to donate the toys. I couldn’t do this, by the way, without the help of the great people at the gas station, and all the people nice enough to take time from their busy season to make thoughtful donations.”

Thanks to Vinnie’s hard work – and thanks as well to the generosity of hundreds of toy donors over the years – countless children in the Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters’ program have been able to experience a more enjoyable holiday season than they would have enjoyed otherwise. Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters values Vinnie DiNatale, and all of its other mentoring volunteers. Without these volunteers, it would have been impossible to serve the more than 70,000 Connecticut children Nutmeg has helped since its founding in 1966.

Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters isn’t alone in recognizing Vinnie DiNatale’s dedication to mentoring. Last year during National Mentoring Month, Vinnie was presented with an Outstanding Mentor award during a special reception hosted by Senator Christopher S. Murphy in Middletown.

Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters, an affiliate of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, is based in Hartford. It serves 132 of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. For information on the organization – including how to donate or volunteer – visit its website: www.nbbbs.org.

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