Rhonda Loy. Photo by Jeannie Frey Rhodes.

Rhonda Loy, Big Buddy

Rhonda Loy, a successful businesswoman, wife and mother, thought she had it all. But it ultimately was through her years of volunteer work with the Big Buddy Program of Baton Rouge that she began to feel completely satisfied with her life.

Loy realized that Big Buddy was her calling when a trio of siblings—now adults who had been mentored through the program as children—told Loy and other Big Buddy board members how the program had helped them make the right choices in life. Financial success wasn’t enough for one of the siblings, who helped run the family’s small business. He finally felt fulfilled after returning to his childhood neighborhood and teaching young adults there his welding trade.

“That was memorable to me,” says Loy. “I felt the same way. I have to add this volunteer work to really round myself out to feel complete.”

Loy, 44, joined the Big Buddy Program in 2004 when a friend asked if she would mind having a Little Buddy shadow her at work for half a day. Loy, a senior vice president wealth management advisor with Merrill Lynch, agreed and took the elementary school-age girl out for breakfast and showed her around the office. Loy remembers asking the girl how many siblings she had, and the girl replied that she didn’t know.

“The experience was probably more eye opening to me than to her,” Loy says of the office visit. Loy became the girl’s mentor and they shared two activities a month, all planned out through Big Buddy.

Today, the Big Buddy Program helps under-supported children in Baton Rouge with after-school activities including tutoring, social enrichment and holiday and summer camps, in addition to mentoring activities outside of school. And the Big Buddy-Little Buddy relationship can really impact a child’s life.

“We want to make sure that they’re not only involved in something but also enriched and learning new things,” says Loy.  “And we want them to learn beyond what they might have learned otherwise.”

Mentoring a child in need can work to solve some of the city’s problems like crime, social inequality and poverty by offering positive adult role models and effecting change, she says.

Loy joined the Big Buddy Program’s board in 2006 and, after 12 years of chairing several different committees, recently stepped down to help develop the program’s advisory board. She even performed in one of the program’s annual fundraisers, “Dancing for Big Buddy,” a competition that is held every spring.

“Looking back, it was one of the most fun nights of my life,” says Loy. She encourages others to get involved in volunteer efforts and causes they hold dear. “Listen to that call and you’ll be rewarded more times over than what you ever have put into it.”

Visit bigbuddyprogram.org for more information. Click here to read about the rest of the Women with a Cause for 2016, and if you know someone who would make a great Woman with a Cause in 2017, let us know by emailing [email protected].

Quick Glance

How is your cause making a difference?

Big Buddy serves under-supported kids through one-on-one relationships also known as mentoring.

What do you love about the volunteer efforts that you do? 

It doesn’t feel like work. You’re in a community of people who all have the same goal.

What do you hope to achieve?

To help more kids know there are good choices and that they can be successful and they can achieve their dreams.