Big Sis­ter Theresa Bivaletz of Clifton

CLIFTON’S THERESA BIVALETZ NAMED BIG SIS­TER OF THE YEAR

201 Family - - CONTENTS - For more in­for­ma­tion, visit north­jer­sey­bigs.org. – SAM PASSOW

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.

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