Mentoring young lives fills a bit of an empty nest for Kelly and John Corp.

Tuesday the husband and wife from Dodge City were awarded the Volunteer of the Year award from Big Brothers Big Sisters Serving Ford County.

When they moved to Dodge City 3 years ago, they were empty-nesters with complicated schedules.

John's employer often keeps him on the road so partnering for activities involved coordinating difficult schedules. Grown children dispersed across the country can leave a void, so a few times a month they are able to fill that void as they actively impact the life of a child.  

From golf to kayaking, to just catching a movie, Kelly says they feel rewarded by being able to experience some of life's little things with the 11-year-old boy they mentor.

"There were still things we wanted to do," Kelly said. "You want a friend to go with you."

Corp said she and her husband don't try to teach lessons or lecture about right and wrong. Leading through example was effective with their own children and that's the approach they take with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

"I don't push people," Corp said. "You try to show that you're being your best person and putting your best self forward all the time. You hope that they notice that what's happening is good."

Kids with a single parent that’s spread thin and having to play breadwinner, homemaker, and disciplinarian all at once are the ones most in need, according to BBBS Area Director Debbie Lutz.

Often the kids come from broken homes and broken relationships, or a single-parent home where mom or dad is working numerous jobs at difficult hours so engagement can be limited. Just having a person to connect with - somebody a kid can talk to or who asks what they did in school - makes a real difference.

"Being able to give these kids that individual attention like Kelly and John do is really important," Lutz said. "That might be the only time they get any. It's about spending that time together and building that relationship."

Jessi Rabe, chair of the group's Leadership Council, notes that time spent with children doesn't have to be an elaborate production number. Kids respond positively to friendly attention and knowing someone is interested in them enough to want to just hang out.

"It's not always trying to make special experiences," Rabe said. "It's about getting that one-on-one experience. We talk about just someone wanting to know about your day."  

Big Brothers Big Sisters Serving Ford County is always looking for volunteers to get involved.

"If you've grown up with both parents and people around you that care and model good relationships, you don't understand the need," Corp said.

To contact the writer email sedger@dodgeglobe.com