For the Love of Children Award Winners Announced

Big Brothers CN

The For the Love of Children Banquet began in 2015 to celebrate and honor the contributions of Grand Island community members who advocate for and serve children. Everyday members of the community work to ensure that all children are well cared for, healthy, educated, and loved. Brenna Poindexter Executive Director Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Nebraska talks about the event. It was pre-recorded so refers to Thursday's banquet as 'tonight'.  

The Association for Child Abuse Prevention (ACAP), Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Nebraska, Boys Town, First Light, Heartland CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), and Willow Rising host the event annually. The Banquet awards one Lifetime Achievement Award and three For the Love of Children Awards.

Award recipients have been selected and are as follows:
The Lifetime Achievement Award – This award is presented to an individual who has contributed substantially over their lifetime to the well-being of children through employment, leadership, and/or participation in volunteer activities. Recipients must have a minimum of 25 years of service to children.                        
Joe Britten
Joe Britten has been a volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Nebraska since 1988, a 32 year and 10-month commitment as a Big.  He has had five Littles, three he was matched with until they graduated from high school.

Joe continues to mentor today at the age of 76 and has been with his current Little for nearly one and half years. In conversations with Joe’s previous Littles, they shared that Joe was a good mentor for them, he was always nice and thoughtful, he modeled being a good partner and a hard worker. Joe provided multiple experiences for his Littles; some examples are basketball games, Husker football games, NASCAR races, and fishing trips. He also provided everyday life experiences, like putting a grill together, fixing things in the house and doing upkeep on a boat. He was an excellent example of what a mentor is, an experienced and trusted adviser.

Andy, Joe’s first Little, stated “Joe was an excellent mentor for me, I don’t think I would be where I am today if it hadn’t been for Joe.” Joe stayed connected with Andy for several years and due to their powerful bond, he even attended Andy’s first child’s baptism. 

One thing that stood out for Arkady (Joe’s fourth Little) and his mother was that Joe taught Arkady how to put things together and Arkady was then able to help her by fixing and putting things together. When Arkady talked with staff at BBBS, he talked about how much he enjoyed his time with Joe. Joe took him places he had never been before and reinforced the importance of caring about others.  

Most recently, when Joe’s current Little was on the honor roll at Walnut Middle School, Joe called to congratulate him. Jorge wants to be an engineer, so Joe made it possible for Jorge to visit the engineering department at Chief. Joe uses his connections to support his Littles’ dreams. 

Joe has been a resident of Grand Island since 1969. He has worked for Chief for the past 56 years. Joe and Sharon have been married for 43 years. Joe continues to give of his time, talents, and treasures to BBBS, his church, and Grand Island Central Catholic. 

For the Love of Children Award - These Individuals are being recognized for their continuing contributions to child well-being through employment or volunteer activities.

Nate Helzer
Nate Helzer has devoted his entire adult life to supporting the healthy development of children. He was a vocal music teacher for 16 years and has taught hundreds of students from kindergarten to 12th grade. While he was a teacher, he sponsored a wide variety of activities including theater, show choir, speech, quiz bowl, and boys’ soccer. He has received numerous awards for his excellence in the classroom.

For the last nine years, Nate has been employed with Grand Island Public Schools. He is currently the principal of the Academy of Business and Communications at Grand Island Senior High. Nate has always taken a trauma-informed approach to teaching and leading. This approach has allowed him to build relationships with students who do may not have healthy relationships outside of school. He spends countless evenings and early mornings calling parents and doing home visits to check in on students struggling with chronic absenteeism. Nate always works to partner with the adults in kids' lives to make sure families have the resources they need so kids are well supported.

Like most great educators, Nate maintains relationships with students even after they leave high school. It is a common occurrence to have a former student reach out to Nate to share about how his teaching impacted them. One of his former students texts him every Father's Day to wish him well, citing that Nate was a father-figure to him. Nate has served as a foster parent, a Big with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Nebraska, and was a regular volunteer at Messiah Lutheran's Saturday Suppers. He has helped shape policies at Grand Island Public Schools that keep students and their well-being at the center.

Nate's most important role, though, is a dad to Jon and Kylynn. He is a consistent, stable, loving presence in their lives.

Kristin Schultz
Kristin Schultz has a true social work heart, and she knows that relationships are key. She has had the privilege of working at Lincoln Elementary for most of these past 17 years and has created bonds that have surpassed generations. The students and families at Lincoln know that she is a person that can be trusted and a person that can help them work through any of their issues. Lincoln is a school that is full of culture and diversity, but also high in need. She has walked alongside many of those Lincoln children and families as they face health issues, deportation, financial hardship and more. She also celebrates with them when there are births, graduations, weddings, and other times of joy. Kristin treats each with dignity and respect, honors their traditions, and empowers families with choices and resources. She makes sure her students have the things they need, whether it is food, clothing, medication, a place to call home, or gifts for Christmas. Her work extends well beyond the school day and well beyond the contract year.

Outside of the school setting, Kristin also serves in many capacities to support children. She serves on the Board for Project Hunger, to help ensure that area children and families don't go hungry. She is on the Foster Care Review Board and has been a foster parent. Two of those boys now call her mom.

Carrie Sheldon
Carrie Sheldon has been a middle school Social Worker at Grand Island Public Schools since 2012. She currently serves the students and families at Barr Middle School. Even before Carrie started working in the school setting, she served the needs of children, spending 10 years as a therapist in private mental health practice. Carrie also worked for 17 years for the Department of Health and Human Services, protecting Nebraska's most vulnerable children.

For Carrie, being a Social Worker and serving children is not a 9-5 job. Carrie has facilitated and created opportunities to help children grow and learn. She has facilitated Sankofa, a violence prevention group for at-risk middle schoolers that teaches them strategies and knowledge to help minimize their risk for future negative behaviors and violence. She created a Crochet Club at Barr to help build community among the students, give them a safe space, and teach them a lifelong calming and meditative skill.

Carrie is a calm and positive person. She is a true warrior when it comes to working with adolescents, which-let's face it-are a tough group! She builds relationships with them because she treats them with respect, gives them love, and sets expectations for them. And she does all of this in a straightforward way, with a little humor and sarcasm thrown in.

 The award recipients will be honored at the recognition and celebration dinner to be held on Thursday, April 18, 2024, at The Venue at Bosselman Enterprises.

Brenna Poindexter For the Love of Children 4/18/24