Program seeks mentors for local children

By Travis Gulbrandson

travis.gulbrandson@plaintalk.net

The Clay-Union Foundation, Inc., is seeking adults who are willing to dedicate two hours per week toward making a difference in the lives of area youths.

The foundation needs volunteers older than 18 to take part in a mentoring program for youths aged 5 to 17.

“We concentrate more on spending time with the child, rather than spending a lot (of money) on the child,” said program director John Gille. “Our main emphasis is really getting to know the match and spending time with them.”

There currently are five children who need to be “matched,” Gille said – two boys and one 13-year-old girl in Elk Point, and two girls in Vermillion.

The foundation also is looking for two board members each for both Clay and Union counties, he said.

Those interested in taking part can visit www.clay-unionfoundation.org, and then click on “Sign Up.”

There are several requirements volunteers need to fulfill, Gille said.

First, they must have their own car. They also must undergo a background check and a six-month probationary period.

Volunteers must also notify the foundation as to any change or address or contact.
“Once we do a background check, if we’ve got volunteers available, I meet with them, they interview them and we look at what youths are available,” Gille said. “Then we meet again a third time, and at that time we have the parents of the youth there with the volunteer and see if there’s potential for a match. …
“Beyond that, if (the foundation has) a function, we would like to have them participate with their match,” he said.

There is no real age limit for the volunteers, he added.

“I’ve had volunteers range anywhere from 18 to 75, so we’ve had a wide range,” Gille said.

The number of volunteers can vary, he said.

“We’ve had as high as 26,” he said. “Right now we’ve got a bunch of USD students who graduated over the last few years. We’re pretty small right now.”

According to the Clay-Union Foundation’s Web site, youths who participate in mentoring programs are less likely to try drugs and alcohol, skip school and lie to their parent or guardian, and more likely to be more trusting and have more self-confidence.

“Locally, we see our youth become more outgoing, more engaged in talking with their parents and guardians, and having a more positive attitude on life, after just (six) months in our program,” the site said.

Gille recommends for anyone who has an interest to take part.

“I was a volunteer in Yankton’s program years ago, and I probably gained as much out of the program as the boys I was matched with,” he said. “You learn a lot about yourself, and you learn more about youth and understanding their needs. The youth has someone else they can relate to. So, it’s important for everybody.”

For more information, Gille can be reached by e-mail at jgille60@yahoo.com, or called or texted at (605) 421-5050.

“I’ve be glad to answer any questions,” he said. “The main thing is to get things started.”

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