Dan Winchester has been performing community based mentoring since 1991. His Little Brother was seven years old when they were matched and Winchester still spends time with him. Over the years, he has spend many hours providing guidance and companionship, sharing the experiences of fishing, community service, farming and hunting, and just “being there” and “hanging out.” Most important, however, is the fact that he helped his Little Brother with life choices. He was being raised by a single mom, and they experienced some difficult times. Winchester was there to listen and give love and advice. Today his Little Brother has completed high school, trade school and is employed full-time.
Winchester was a Little Brother at the age of 11. His Big Brother mentored him until he was 19 years old. Winchester learned a lot about life and the importance of community service through his relationship with his Big Brother. One of the greatest lessons Winchester’s Brother taught him was to pass on the gifts, talents and opportunities that he received from his Big Brother. That is the reason Winchester became an active Big Brother. He wanted to make the same impact in someone’s life that his Big Brother made in his.
Since 1993, Winchester has also been an active Board Member of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Since becoming involved with the organization, he has raised in excess of 25,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Big Bend. In 1999 and 2000, Winchester also served as a mentor to a seven- year-old child and still drops in to the first grade classroom from time to time to read to the children there.
Winchester is a member of the Leon County Board of County Commissioners. The Director of the Leon County Volunteer Center believes they are very fortunate to have a member of the County Commission so in tune with the importance of mentoring. Strongly supported by Commissioner Winchester in 2000, the Board passed an Administrative Leave Policy that allows employees to use leave time to volunteer one hour per week to serve as a mentor in schools. He believes it is wonderful that the County employees will give of their time and energy to make a difference in the life of a child, but there is still a great need for more mentors.
In 2001, Winchester spearheaded the Leon County Mentoring Initiative and adopted Sealy Elementary School. This is a school-based “read to kids” type of mentoring initiative that started very small. However, it is now providing over a dozen mentors to Sealey’s Elementary students.
Winchester knows that the young people and the mentors are not the only people impacted by these relationships. Entire communities benefit from the youth receiving additional guidance and nurturing. Mentoring results in young people staying or being placed on the right track to a successful future.