May 5, 2018 | Source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
By Ray Westbrook
Shawn Vinson, a board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters, remembers being astonished when the Lubbock Area United Way honored him at its annual meeting with the Agency Volunteer of the Year Award.
Those who knew of his work for the agency may not have been so surprised that he was chosen, among them Brion Garrett, a high school sophomore chosen to hang out with Vinson and his family in August 2017.
Vinson had begun some community work before that with some non-profit walks for projects such as the Susan Koman fundraisers, and time spent with the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce.
“But the Big Brothers Big Sisters really hit home because of the diverse background that I was raised in,” Vinson said.
“I was able to see how the need for guidance and mentorship was a big need growing up. And, thankfully, I had coaches. Really, the coaches helped to be the father figure and the role model that I wanted to fall into. But it was always that older person that was guiding it.
“I thought that maybe if I had somebody that was a little older than I was at the time, it would have been a really good help to show me which way to go in certain decisions in my life at the time as a teenager.”
Vinson committed to the Big Brothers Big Sisters requirement to meet with a “little brother” for one hour a week for a year. That time has stretched into hours during some weeks when Brion temporarily entered Vinson’s family.
His family consists of his wife and children ages six, three and one.
Vinson also is an entrepreneur, with a position as vice president of Discount Storage.
“We run self-storage properties and build self-storage properties for ourselves and anyone else. We also are Gargoyle Steel Structures. It’s kind of a hybrid between two different companies, but the main brand is Discount Storage.”
The sessions with Brion may range from stopping at a restaurant for a meal or a snack, to playing basketball or just going out to a park area, when Vinson’s children come along.
Brion told the A-J Media in December that he has enjoyed the time spent with Vinson.
“We went to a Tech football game. They were playing Iowa State.”
He said Vinson has been able to help with homework on occasion. “I’m thinking about being an engineer, and maybe going to Tech.”
Vinson said he can see some results of being a mentor to Brion:
“More than anything, I’m impressed with his outgoingness, his being willing to communicate with adults. He was very shy, would hardly look anyone in the eye when he would talk to them. It was yes and no answers. Now, he elaborates a lot more. He actually has blossomed into a young man who can converse and share ideas, and has a great personality.
“I think that was always there, it’s just coming out now, and that’s a big deal.”
Vinson didn’t sign on for just a year with Brion:
“I always see this as a lifelong bond. I told Brion, I will be there for his graduation from high school, his first day of college, his graduation from college, and hopefully his wedding day and when he has kids. I told him when we first met that I’m not doing this just for a temporary thing to get you through school. This is a lifelong commitment.
“So, whenever you have a need for advice or have a question throughout life, I’ll be there.”