Big Sister Theresa Bivaletz of Clifton
CLIFTON’S THERESA BIVALETZ NAMED BIG SISTER OF THE YEAR
Theresa Bivaletz was always interested in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and applied to become a “Big” after seeing a commercial in October 2011. “All I wanted was the chance to let a little girl know that she was special and important in this world,” the Clifton resident says.
She was matched with a 7-year-old girl named Patricia.
“After hearing all about her, I knew I wanted to meet her,” Bivaletz says. “We met for the first time on Jan. 4, 2012 – so that is our ‘Match Anniversary.’”
She was named the Big Sister of the Year by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern NJ last year. But Bivaletz was a little nervous when she started out.
“I hadn’t spent any time with a 7-year-old since I was 7 myself,” she says. “But when I met Patricia she actually reminded me of myself as a child and even looked a little like I did at her age, so I think Big Brothers Big Sisters did a great job in pairing us together.”
Their early activities included the monthly kids’ workshops at Home Depot, trips to the park or library, and lots of craft projects. Now they enjoy baking pizza and cookies, talking about the singer Ariana Grande, getting manicures, ice skating, and participating in the events Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern NJ offers – from free tickets to concerts and plays to baking lessons and trips to Great Adventure.
“Sometimes we keep it low key though, and just go out for a bite to eat or for ice cream and we just chat about school and other fun things,” Bivaletz says.
She has enjoyed watching Patricia grow over the last four years.
“She’s no longer that young little girl; she’s now a pre-teen and facing many of the challenges and exciting things that all adolescents go through,” she says. “I think, and I hope, she knows that she can talk to me about anything, and I’ll always be there for her.”
Supporting other girls and women has always been a passion for Bivaletz, who has a background in social work, primarily in the field of domestic violence and sexual assault. She’s the campus victim services coordinator at William Paterson University, where she helps affected students, while also running awareness and prevention programs.
She also serves on the board of directors for Unchained At Last, a national nonprofit working to help girls or women in America escape arranged or forced marriages. She helps raise funds and provides social work consultation to the group’s executive director.
As for anyone curious about joining Big Brothers Big Sisters, Bivaletz says, “Do it!”
“It’s definitely a time commitment, but one of the best commitments you could possibly make,” she says. “There are so many children out there that need a stable role model in their life.”
She says the organization has a lot of boys waiting for a Big Brother, so she’d especially urge men to apply. However, she adds, “If you don’t think you have the time or energy to be a Big, please consider donating.” ●
BIG AND LITTLE Theresa Bivaletz and her “Little Sister” Patricia attended the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern NJ Gala together last year.