PITTSBURG, Kan. — Monica Holmes has always known she wanted to spend her life working with kids. From starting Miner’s Athletics — a gym for kids in Pittsburg — to becoming a Police Protective Custody Home for kids needing removed from bad situations and now running Big Brothers Big Sisters in Pittsburg as the area director, she has dedicated her life to helping kids in any way she can.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with kids,” Holmes said. “It’s always been a passion of mine.”
Holmes, originally from Columbus, got a degree in elementary education from Pittsburg State University in 2006. However, she and her husband immediately started a family, and she decided to stay home with their child and was never able to teach.
Then in 2009, her husband, Quentin, and her were contacted by a family in Pittsburg about starting a gym/activity center for children. They fell in love with the idea and started what is now known as Miner’s Athletics.
“We looked into it and just decided that that’s what we wanted to do,” Holmes said. “We offer lots of different programs including tumbling, baseball, basketball, karate. We even did a ninja class once.”
After years of successfully building and running Miner’s Athletics, Holmes wanted to do more.
“As the kids got older and got into school, I found myself kind of just wanting to do a little bit more in the community and be more involved with kids,” she said.
Then she heard about becoming a Police Protective Custody Home and decided to give it a shot. That was four years ago and since then Holmes said her family has had over 20 kids of all ages in their home.
Holmes said being a PPC home doesn’t mean she and her husband are licensed to foster kids, rather they are just a place for kids escaping rough situations to stay until their court date.
“When we get these kids, our number one goal is to just kind of be a light to them,” she said. “We like to provide experiences that while they might be everyday things for us, for them it’s things that a lot these kids don’t get to see inside their homes. Even if it's just seeing how a husband and wife treat each other, or how a parent treats their kids, or how we treat other people, we just try to give them a positive experience knowing that we’re only going to have them for a short time but hoping that it's something they keep with them forever.”
Holmes was content with running her business and housing kids whenever needed, but then in March of last year, she took on a new challenge as the area director of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Pittsburg.
“It’s been a learning experience that’s for sure, but I’ve really enjoyed it,” Holmes says. “It’s just kind of something that fell into my lap. I’d been telling my husband for years that I just felt led to do more in the community and especially with kids and he would ask me ‘well what do you want to do?’ and I would say ‘I don’t know yet, when something comes along that I am passionate about, I’ll know.’ So, this position came open and it was like a no brainer for me, I knew 100% that, that is what I wanted to do.”
Holmes said it was definitely a weird year to start a new job, but she enjoyed the challenge and was very impressed with all the ways the volunteers made an effort to still spend time and see their “littles” even during a pandemic.
“Everyone has gotten creative with how we can continue serving kids,” she says. “We had one volunteer who would go during the stay-at-home order one or twice a week to the child's house and draw a little picture with sidewalk chalk for them.”
Holmes said Big Brothers Big Sisters currently serves about 53 kids in Crawford County, but she hopes to keep growing that number.
“We should be serving a lot more,” she says, “but it's going to take everybody kind of coming together. There’s a lot of people in the community that still don’t know that Big Brothers Big Sisters even exists here.”
When Holmes is not busy with work, she is home with three children of her own, ages 13, 12 and 9. She loves spending time with her family, hiking or playing games.
“I really enjoy just spending time with my family,” Holmes said. “We really enjoy the outdoors and adventure.”
Holmes’s dedication to the children of Pittsburg and Crawford County, as well as to her own family, earned her a spot as a 2021 Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce Woman of Distinction.
“I was surprised,” Holmes said. “I had kind of followed that for a while and I always thought it was a cool thing and I just never really thought that that would be me.”
Holmes is very honored to be named among the other women who received the award and said awards like it are important to the community.
“I think it's important just to recognize strong women in our community who are making an impact in some way,” Holmes says. “Whether that be through kids or through other women or through anyone, anything that can make an impact, I think it’s important to recognize that.”