Letters: Be a mentor

The Clay-Union Foundation is celebrating its 15th year as a mentoring program in Clay and Union County, and would like to thank many of our area businesses for their support. Our program operates on a very lean budget, yet we have made 132 matches, and more children are waiting for mentors. We emphasize that our matches spend quality time together, and the costs are minimal to be a mentor or member.

Right now, a 12-year-old boy near Jefferson would like to spend time with an adult male, and wants to learn the outdoor activities he has not been able to do. A 16-year-old girl is seeking an adult female friend in Vermillion for two months, and we have not found a volunteer for her. We also had a referral for two boys and two girls in Elk Point, and the information was forwarded to students through EPJ.

Unfortunately, some parents feel a stigma by signing their children up for a mentoring program, and we have had standing volunteers at times, but no youth available, or no volunteers and youth who have been waiting. There is no stigma attached to signing up a youth, as we have had them from all walks of life. Changing family lifestyles, mixed families and a weak economy mean it's more difficult for parents to spend all the time they would like to with their children, and the need is great across the country. If there were not a need, much larger mentoring programs would not exist either. Other activities may grab more headlines, but the impact of a good mentoring experience stays with both mentors and youth for life. We would like to match youth and adults throughout Union and Clay County, and that's where individuals can take the first step in signing up a youth, being a volunteer, or being a sponsor to ensure the program is funded and can continue to help youth.

Please consider being a volunteer, a mentor, or a youth member. Our website is www.clay-unionfoundation.org and the e-mail is jgille60@yahoo.com. Union County has had a few matches over the years, and is a tremendous program sponsor, yet we lag behind Clay County in signing up youth, and recruiting volunteers. Clay County has signed up many more youth, yet we struggle to have sustained long term sponsors. In both counties, we have children and adults who can benefit from mentoring, so please contact me if you would like to learn more about being a member, volunteer, or sponsor. No one stands taller than those who reach out to help a child develop into a productive and active adult.

For the good of our area youth,

John P. Gille

Program Director

Clay-Union Foundation, Inc.

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