Sisters for three years

Barker and Whitaker bond over art and being creative

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MANCHESTER — Having an art studio works to Beth Whitaker's advantage.

It's a special place where she and her little sister, Lily Barker, paint, make collages, decoupage and create other art projects once a week.

The two have been a community-based match for three and a half years in the Big Brother Big Sister program through United Counseling Service.

Barker was 10-years-old when she first met her big sister.

"It's been a lot of fun and it's nice to hang out with someone and do stuff with them instead of like, staying at home all day," Barker said about Whitaker. "You actually get to hang out with someone different that likes things that you like."

Those likeable things include enjoying a cup of coffee together, spending time outdoors or at the local library, making art or finding other ways to be creative.

They've also played board games, visited the Otter Creek Fun Center in Danby, and participated in program activities with other matches including a visit to Bromley Mountain, Lake George, N.Y., Hildene, and riding The Elf Express.

"I've learned that you like to bake, do art, do whatever you can to be creative," Barker said to Whitaker. "You like to be calm and explore things and try new things a lot. You like to be outside a lot... you enjoy animals."

Whitaker grew up in northern Connecticut, lived in New York City for 35 years and moved to Manchester five years ago. She said it reminds her of her hometown.

"I know that when I was growing up it was really nice to have a variety of families that I knew so I hope to give lily a different type of relationship she would have had otherwise," Whitaker said.

She has a daughter who is almost 18-years-old, but said their relationship was changing. Plus, Whitaker wanted to get more involved with the community.

"I was at a point where getting involved in the community was important for me," Whitaker said. "My daughter was getting to the age where she didn't want to hang out with me anymore and I missed having a relationship with a young girl. It was about the opportunity to have a relationship with someone from a different household and do something I could

offer."

Barker grew up in the middle — between four step siblings and a half sister.

"I have been able to discover that Lily is a very sweet young girl and very caring and she enjoys her family and her friends," Whitaker said. "She's a good friend to the people she takes in close. She also likes to experiment to a point She's just a very loving sweet young woman. [Ten] it's a different age altogether — at age 13, she's been able to survive and thrive through it all and it's been a joy to watch that. You've changed a lot since I've met you."


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