Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Elliott to lead BBBS


September 1, 2011

Sarah Elliott will start as the new community director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Upper Lynn Canal on Friday, Sept. 2.

Elliott will step in for Burl Sheldon, who helped launch the local program in 2003.

"Burl’s done an excellent job promoting the program and getting it good popularity, and there’s a lot of respect for the organization," Elliott said. "I just want to build off of that."

She previously worked as the Haines Borough’s part-time Community Youth Development (CYD) director.

Sheldon said Elliott was one of three finalists for the Big Brothers Big Sisters position. The program currently matches about 30 mentors with youth in Haines and Klukwan and has an annual budget of $65,897.

"Sarah has the technical skills, she has the interpersonal skills, she is deeply invested in the community and has many, many connections from a lifetime in Haines, in addition to her job skills," Sheldon said. "I think that’s really valuable in this position."

Elliott has not been a Big Sister, but said her time with CYD gave her "experience working with youth and parents in town, and I like working with kids and working with the community."

"Generally speaking, events are easier to organize for kids, because whatever you organize, they’re excited to get out of the house and do something different," Elliott said. "The difficult part is the fund development and just getting enough volunteers."

Sarah Swinton, who had three children participate in CYD basketball during Elliott’s three-year tenure, said she would miss Elliott’s leadership.

"She did a really good job," Swinton said. "I don’t want her to go, but she’ll do a good job with Big Brothers Big Sisters, too. I did appreciate the time that she put in (with CYD), and it was well organized and ran smoothly."

During Elliott’s transition with Big Brothers Big Sisters through the end of September, Sheldon plans to work about 10 hours a week. Then, he will stay in Haines to continue as a Big Brother and donor.

"One very special aspect of this experience has been the stories, many about challenges and some very beautiful," Sheldon said. "… We clearly undervalue the role of mentors in our society. I don’t see any substitute, in a young person’s life, for caring, interested and competent adults."

Elliott will work 20-25 hours a week for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Helen Mooney, match support specialist, is the organization’s other Haines employee.

Big Brothers Big Sisters has a confidentiality policy, and Elliott said growing up in Haines made her "appreciate confidentiality a lot, because I think I recognize what it means to live in a small town and the importance of that."

"Since it is a small town and you know everyone, it’s really important to follow guidelines and treat every Big and Little the same and their families and make sure that all the interviews are the same, no matter if you know the person or you don’t know the person," she said.