2018 Starts With Me Award

By Brad Kirshenbaum, Director of Marketing and Recruitment

Hello again, blog buddies!

Here at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands, we have an amazing staff that is dedicated to their work and consistently goes to great lengths to ensure we are serving our community in the best way possible. However, each month we like to recognize those staff members who have stepped up in uncommon and incredible ways to spread our mission. We call it the ‘Starts With Me Award’. All winners are nominated by their fellow staff members, which gives the award special significance. I am writing today to highlight our winners this year and allow them to shine a bit outside of the organization as well as within.


Emily Tonniges was recognized for her amazing contributions throughout the previous year, assisting with events ranging from our parent/guardian brunch to the Winter Carnival, and countless other events in between. She helps significantly with the agency’s ‘Adopt-a-Family’ efforts and always goes out of her way to help fellow staff members. Additionally, Emily serves on countless community boards and committees, helping spread positivity throughout Omaha.


Danny Oliver, our February winner, was nominated for his welcoming demeanor and willingness to step outside of his traditional duties to ensure everyone’s job is easier. He has served as a Big Brother for many years and fulfills that role within the agency as well, offering a pick-me-up to so many staff. Danny’s award could easily double as an ‘Outstanding Person’ award.


Jessica Puga, recent recipient of her Master’s Degree, is known throughout Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands as someone who consistently places her focus on the agency’s responsibility to ensure our Littles achieve the outcomes they desire. She is a passionate contributor to the agency and is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to community resources.


Lauren Mohatt won April’s honor for doing an incredible job of balancing three large events in quick succession: Basketball Bash, A Masterful Sunday at Blackstone Social and Bowl For Kids’ Sake. These events represented our largest fundraisers and she approached them with a calm, professional demeanor that ensured they would be massive successes. No matter what obstacles came her way, she adjusted and helped lead us to our most successful Bowl For Kids’ Sake yet!


Olga Navedo has been a rockstar within the agency for many years, in particular her contributions to Bowl for Kids’ Sake. She tirelessly serves as a VIP waiter and, regardless of the project, lends a hand. She has a relentless smile on her face and makes even the most stressful moments lighthearted with a joke or happy song.


Maria Montes went above and beyond to help 17 Littles receive bikes from a local organization. This was an awesome opportunity for our Littles, and Maria made sure that kids in our program were able to take advantage of the opportunity. She is committed to the mission and families of BBBS day in and day out and has always been a great support and advocate for the families she supports.


Tori Babe, our July winner, volunteered several of her days off to ensure our yearly Match Appreciation Brunch was a success. She took charge of several items and used her creativity to design centerpieces and seating arrangements: neither of which are anywhere near her job description. She is the epitome of above and beyond.


Austin White is someone whose energy knows no bounds. While spearheading several events for recruitment, he also handles all of the agency’s graphic design needs, while serving on three internal committees. He says YES to almost everything, but asks for no recognition in return. It is impossible to overstate how strongly his contributions touch all areas of Big Brothers Big Sisters.


Katie Bendon, one of our newest employees, was quickly recognized for the September award. She is incredibly organized and meets all of the agency’s grant reporting and submissions deadlines. She keeps her cool and is a boundless source of energy and positivity. Katie always chimes in with new ideas and is happy to contribute wherever necessary (once she’s had her coffee).


Jason Thompson is a dedicated member of the BBBS staff. Jason is a straight-shooter who gets things done. His initiative and community involvement are an inspiration to the staff and he has lead several internal efforts to broaden our understanding of the work we do: hosting brown bags and organizing our book club. He is a champion of our mission and someone we are all proud to have represent the agency in the community.


Lindsey Williams, the November winner, is a relentlessly hard worker. She is an amazing advocate for our kids and is involved in several community organizations. When raffle prizes were short, she jumped at the opportunity to engage our partners and make sure we had more than enough. She is always quick to share her ideas and loves collaborating across departments.


The Staff Appreciation Committee won this award as a team. They have spent all of 2018 ensuring that the Big Brothers Big Sisters staff has been recognized and appreciated across the board. They make the office a more fun and engaging place, organizing potlucks, holiday parties, birthday celebrations, and countless other events to make work feel like family. Thank you to Emily Tonniges, Megan Wertheim and Tori Babe for all of their work.

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