Kenny King, left, and Lonnie Hawkins speak at the Big Brothers Big Sisters at the recent donor appreciation event.
LARGO – Lonnie Hawkins, the retired owner of a construction company, spends a lot of time building lives.
In the 1970s Hawkins became a big brother for a 6 year old, Kenny King. As an adult, King became an integral part of Hawkins’ construction business and has five children of his own.
Then, 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 organization’s board of directors, Lonnie decided to give to the program again. He and his wife, Mary Lynne, became big couples. They also have three adopted children.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County presented Hawkins with its 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award April 27 at the organizations’ annual volunteer and donor appreciation event at the Mahaffey Theater.
“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),” said Susan Rolston, CEO of the local organization in a news release.
Hawkins, who splits time living in Durango, Colo., and Indian Rocks Beach, said he gets tremendous satisfaction from mentoring children.
“You get so much more out of the program than what you put in. It’s just fun to watch how actually the program has progressed over all the years I have been involved and how much more professional it is now than when I first got involved and what a great job everybody does in the whole organization,” Hawkins said.
He takes pride in how his little brother, King, has developed into a family man throughout their relationship.
Hawkins and King quickly became close, enjoying outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, and fishing, as well as spending time at Lonnie’s business. By involving King in his daily activities, Hawkins taught King to overcome his fears and shyness, according to the organization. Over the years, the relationship grew to be more like father and son.
Hawkins, who started his Tarpon Springs construction company in the 1970s, said he was influenced by other “feel good” stories about other mentors in the program.
“When I first got involved, a gentleman who worked for Sears Roebuck headed up half the United States. He traveled five days a week and he was home on the weekends. He was a big brother. And I told myself, if this man has time to be involved in the program and love it, then I should look at it. That’s how I originally got involved.”
In other words he just made time for it.
“You just involve the little brother in whatever you are doing in life. I took [King] him to work a lot with me. Whatever we were doing around the house I involved him. It’s kind of like a family activity,” he said.
In October of 2009, Lonnie and Mary Lynne were matched with Little Brother, Gerricko, who was 9 years old at the time. Seeing Gerricko, and his brother living together with their Grandmother, Lonnie and Mary Lynne could not resist taking on his 10-year-old brother, Gerald, as their second little brother in March of 2010.
Hawkins said his wife has been very involved in the program, too.
“Half the award goes to her,” Hawkins said.
The organization needs more Big Brothers such as Hawkins to serve the hundreds of boys who are waiting to be matched with a positive role model. To volunteer to the organization or make a donation, email www.bbbspc.org.