'Big Brother' Honored for Nearly 40 Years of Service
Since the late 1970s Lonnie Hawkins has given back to the community through Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Lonnie Hawkins' work with Big Brother Big Sisters of Pinellas County began over burgers with his first "Little Brother" at a Largo McDonald's in the 1970s. Recently he received the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedicated service as a "Big Brother".
At the agency’s “Big Celebration”, the annual volunteer and donor appreciation event, Lonnie was honored beside his “Little Brother”, Kenny King, on the stage of the Mahaffey Theater, in front of nearly 700 “Bigs”, “Littles” and agency supporters.
In the late 1970’s, Lonnie Hawkins decided to sign up to become a Big Brother. Lonnie had recently started a construction company, Hawkins Construction, Inc., and was looking for a way to give back to the community. At that time, Kenny King was only 6-years-old, living with his mother and two sisters. His mother enrolled him in Big Brothers Big Sisters so he could have a strong adult male role model to help him with fear and confidence issues, but no one could have predicted how great an impact his Big Brother would make.
Lonnie and Kenny quickly became close, enjoying outdoor activities like camping, hiking, and fishing, as well as spending time at Lonnie’s business. By involving Kenny in his day to day activities, Lonnie taught Kenny to overcome his fears and shyness. Over the years, Lonnie and Kenny’s relationship grew to be more like father and son. When Lonnie and his wife, Mary Lynne, decided to adopt three children, Kenny was there to help establish their new family. As an adult, Kenny became an integral part of Lonnie’s construction business and remains part of that business today. As an adult with five children of his own, Kenny still views Lonnie as his dad and to Kenny’s kids’, he is known as “Papa”.
After nearly 40 years of being involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters, being both a Big Brother to Kenny and serving for many years on the Board of Directors, Lonnie decided to do it all over again. Together with his wife Mary Lynne, they signed up to become a Big Couple. In October of 2009, Lonnie and Mary Lynne were matched with Little Brother, Gerricko, who was 9-years-old at the time. Seeing Gerricko (aka “G”) and his brother living together with their Grandmother, Lonnie and Mary Lynne could not resist taking on 10 year old brother, Gerald (aka “Bodee”), as their second Little Brother in March of 2010. Now Lonnie participates in all of the fun match activities that he had done years before with Kenny; with not one, but two Littles.
“Lonnie Hawkins and Kenny King are the epitome of a successful Big/Little match. They are a living testimony to the hard work that Big Brothers Big Sisters does in matching our “Bigs” (mentors) and “Littles” (children). Matches are made between Bigs and Littles with the utmost of care, pairing according to similar interests, hobbies and personalities. We are deliberate in our process so that we create strong and enduring long-term matches, which ultimately have the greatest impact on the children we serve. We need more Big Brothers like Lonnie Hawkins to serve the hundreds of boys who are waiting to be matched with a positive role model. Lonnie has devoted years of service to his community, changing the lives of several impressionable youths, from Kenny, to their own three adopted children and now “G” and “Bodee”. It is with great honor that we named Lonnie Hawkins as the recipient of our Lifetime Achievement Award for 2012," said Susan Rolston, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County.