October 25, 2017

United Way helping the Purdue community: Claudine Meilink's story

Claudine Meilink Claudine Meilink, associate director of corporate outreach for the Krannert Professional Development Center. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons) Download image

This week, Purdue Today will offer profiles on Purdue community members who have benefited from United Way agencies. Today, Claudine Meilink, associate director of corporate outreach for the Krannert Professional Development Center, shares her story about how the Boys & Girls Club and Big Brothers Big Sisters helped make a difference for her and her son, Caleb.

How long have you worked at Purdue?

I started my career at Purdue on Aug. 1, 2006, at the Center for Career Opportunities. I changed roles three years ago, in the summer of 2014, to work for the Krannert School of Management. 

Which United Way agency did you work with?

My son, Caleb, attended afterschool care at the Boys & Girls Club when I first moved to the Greater Lafayette area from Ohio for my position with the CCO. I didn’t know anyone here, so it was really my only option for child care as I could not afford other day care options at the time.

Caleb also had the opportunity to be matched with a Big Brother through Big Brothers Big Sisters, which is the bigger story. His Big Brother, Alan, played a large role in his life, and they still stay in touch years later. Alan attended Purdue as a graduate student when he mentored Caleb. I have no idea how he made the time for him, but he consistently spent time with him weekly. Once he graduated and moved away, Alan would make sure to catch up with Caleb when he came back in town and has stayed in touch through Facebook. 

How did you find out about the agency?

A co-worker referred me to the Boys & Girls Club. I heard an advertisement for Big Brothers Big Sisters on the radio.

What led you to using the agency?

My need for the services of the Boys & Girls Club was financial. Although I had a great job as a student affairs professional, as a single parent, I could not afford child care. I was fresh out of graduate school and had a home that needed to be sold in Ohio. To say finances were tight would be an understatement.

I surprised myself by reaching out to Big Brothers Big Sisters. While it took quite some time for them to match Caleb with a Big Brother, the match was ideal. (They actually matched him twice but that’s another story. Both matches were great. The first match moved away after a year.) I reached out because, as Caleb grew older, I thought it would be good for him to have a mentor.

How did you benefit?

The Boys & Girls Club was more than a place for nearly free child care. Caleb received help with his homework, and he had a lot of fun playing with the other children. He still vividly remembers the air hockey tournaments! The best part for me was his homework was done when I picked him up after work. This allowed me to focus on cooking dinner and spending quality time with Caleb.

Caleb having a Big Brother provided a positive role model in a way that I cannot begin to describe. Although Caleb’s father is involved, he lives in Florida so he is not physically present on a daily basis. Alan, as Caleb’s Big Brother, spent so much time with him and involved him in appropriate social activities that really helped Caleb to grow socially, which was a huge blessing. Caleb has high-functioning autism (Asperger’s syndrome) so social activities don’t always come easily for him. Spending time with Alan improved his confidence so much.

What would you like to tell someone who is considering reaching out to a United Way agency?

I’ve always said, “They can’t tell you no if you don’t ask.” I wasn’t sure if I would qualify for child care with the Boys & Girls Club due to my income. My fee for services was so low, I was sure it was incorrect. They assured me that it was correct. It was such a blessing because, after my move and my transition to the community, I was struggling financially at the time.

Do you volunteer with the Purdue United Way Campaign or with a UW agency now?

I have served as a junior chair and senior chair multiple times. When I worked for the CCO, I was the junior chair and senior chair for (what was then) Student Affairs in 2011 and 2012. Once I came to Krannert in 2014, I served as the junior chair. Logan Jordan then entrusted me with the senior chair role in 2016, which I am still serving as. I also served as the advisor for the Purdue Chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters from 2010 to 2015.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Consider making a monthly donation to the United Way from your paycheck. No amount is too small. Every little bit counts! What you might not realize is you are helping a colleague.

 

* The Purdue United Way Campaign runs through Nov. 15 with the goal of raising $785,000 for local agencies in need. A link to donate as well as more information can be found on the Purdue United Way website. Questions about the campaign can be directed to Megan Dale, Purdue United Way director, at dale12@purdue.edu or 765-494-9240.


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