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By Jennifer L. Warren
NEW WINDSOR – It’s an intensely hot and humid late July afternoon in the City of Newburgh on Johnson Street, where a string of booths, is being overseen in a community outreach effort hosted by Catholic Charities. Behind one, is Mary Kate Lowe, smiling, as she actively interacts with two boys, sharing information and enrollment cards on her organization.
It’s that very proactive, hands-on approach that continues to be the cornerstone of Lowe’s non-profit philosophy as she approaches the nine month mark in her position as Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County. Lowe, who was born and raised in Orange County and presently resides in Monroe, holds two Masters Degrees; one in social work and the other in non-profit management, but it’s her on the job experiences that equipped her with priceless tools for her current position. A former Mentoring Manager with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County for five and a half years, Lowe realized early on where her priorities needed to be to best help people.
“Going to people’s homes and seeing their circumstances really allowed me to know how to serve them, especially using preventive measures,” reflected Lowe. “It was at this time that I really learned a lot about non-profits, allowing me to be the way I am now professionally, having an awareness of the needs of the community and really understanding their dynamics has truly helped me.”
Following her initial work stint with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Lowe pursued a position as a Foster Care Clinician, providing parenting education for four years. Despite many positive experiences here, she knew in her heart prevention services were her true love. Reconnecting with some Big Brother Big Sister of Orange County colleagues, Lowe discovered an Executive Director position was available in the fall of 2021, and she was invited to apply. After a two month process, she was selected for the job which officially started on January 3, 2022. It’s a role filled with a genuine belief in the mission of the long-standing, effectively proven mentoring organization of the community.
“Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County has been around for 45 years; there is proof in the longevity of the prevention model that was started a long time ago and remains beneficial to our youth in connecting them to positive adult role models, mentors,” said Lowe about the organization’s main mission.
That critical, driving purpose has only intensified the last two years according to Lowe. Since the onset of the Pandemic, she sees youth crave genuine connections with positive, healthy, uplifting adults more than ever. The diligent matching of a caring adult role model who has the precious, needed time to share with the proper child can have a tremendous, empowering impact.
“It’s so important to keep children on the right path, and mentors can help bring that joy with experiences of new opportunities and examples of healthy environments,” said Lowe. “Mentoring is not just about spending time with a child but also providing real examples of healthy relationships, positivity, as well as showing different available paths and empowering children to be the best they can be, and having that right adult mentor can really ignite that.”
As she reflects upon the first three quarters of a year as Executive Director, Lowe immediately points to two words: Transition and awareness, both guiding objectives. More specifically, transition means to have the agency run as functionally and efficiently as possible; while awareness translates to getting the name of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County out there- whether that be via social media, webpage content and access , or just plain visibility in the community such as Lowe’s appearance on Johnson Street last month. Whatever the means, Lowe is ready for and excited about confronting the challenges that lie ahead, as the work is about one of our most precious resources: children…as well as their futures.
“My main hopes are to grow this agency from where we are, bringing in more mentors and children, allowing us to provide services upholding our mission to ‘ignite the power and promise of our children,’” emphasized Lowe. “We are such a community-minded organization, and I would still like to see more of those partnerships-key relationships; it definitely takes a village to raise a child, so the more collaboration we have in the County, the better off it will result for our youth.”