Jim Gordon recalled the day 16 years ago when he took a leap and volunteered to be a Big Brother.
“His eyes got me. They showed me four or five pictures of kids and wanted me to take the kid who’d been waiting the longest, but he was the one. It was like looking at myself at his age — the pain and loneliness,” he said.
Mr. Gordon, voted by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Martha’s Vineyard as its first man of the year in 1997, feels more blessed by a relationship with an eight-year-old African American kid than by accolades.
“I only accepted it because they needed the exposure. Later, the local chapter of the NAACP wanted to give me an award. I couldn’t accept because I couldn’t accept an award for doing what I should have been doing. I’ve gotten more from Derek than I’ve given him,” Mr. Gordon said, referring to his little brother Derek Standard, formerly of Oak Bluffs and now age 23.
“He’s allowed me to be a father and now a grandfather, something I never would have had,” he said. Derek, his wife, Tabatha, and one-year-old son Dayvan live in New Hampshire, but Mr. Gordon visits frequently and Mr. Standard and his former big brother talk by phone at least weekly.
Mr. Gordon, who owns a painting and wallpapering business on Island, is not a golfer and won’t be teeing up on Sunday for the 20th annual Big Brothers and Big Sisters golf tournament. But when it comes to this tournament, he is a duffer at heart.
“It’s an important event. They need all the help they can get. I only knew about the organization because the publicity events like this got in the papers and on radio,” he said.
Thanks to the efforts of Islanders over 20 years, golfers know the tournament and love to play in it.
Individual and team registration begins Sunday at 7 a.m. at Mink Meadows Golf Club on Franklin street in Vineyard Haven. Coffee and light breakfast food from the Black Dog will be available.
Advance registration, at $100 per golfer, can also be made by calling event coordinator Connie Alexander at 508-693-0101 or at the golf course at 508-693-0600.
Cash prizes will be awarded to individuals hitting closest to the pin on the 166-yard par-three seventh hole and for longest drive on the 354-yard par-four tenth hole. Prizes will also be awarded to the top three teams.
“But there will be awards for every participating golfer. No one will go home empty-handed,” Mrs. Alexander said.
As it has for the past 20 years, Mink Meadows is donating use of the course to the event. Award presentations will be made around 12:30 p.m. at the conclusion of the scramble (the format for the tournament), following lunch provided by Tea Lane Caterers and refreshments courtesy of Coca-Cola.
All the proceeds from the event will go to Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Martha’s Vineyard.
The event has been sponsored for the past 20 years by the Dukes County Savings Bank, now the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank.
Savings Bank chief operating officer Richard Leonard remembers the origins of the tournament well. “My father, Howard M. Leonard, came to my office one day and said, ‘We need a golf tournament for Big Brothers Big Sisters and you need to sponsor it.’ He came back the next day with signs that read First Annual Big Brothers and Big Sisters Golf Tournament. My brother Paul and I knew then this wasn’t going to be a one-time event,” he said.
“That’s the way Dad was. He did a lot for the Island community. Big Brothers Big Sisters was one cause he passionately supported,” Mr. Leonard continued, taking special note too of the efforts of Dr. David Finkelstein and WMVY general manager Greg Orcutt over the years.
Support is still a critical need for the mostly volunteer group, Mrs. Alexander said. “We’ve got about 70 Big and Little matches currently and the need is greater than ever. I see that in my work,” she said. Mrs Alexander teaches seventh and eighth grade science at the Tisbury School.
“We need golfers this Sunday but we also need more people to become big brothers and big sisters,” she said.
For Mr. Gordon, the decision to be a Big Brother was a no-brainer. “I wanted to accomplish something that would last beyond my work and my life,” he said.