Our volunteers are not only appreciated, they are critical to our work. As a Community-Based Organization, our agency is heavily embedded in our community, just as our community is embedded in us—we must mutually serve and respond to one another’s needs. Caring for local children, youth and families means that we need a variety of people to carry out an assortment of important positions, including mentoring and tutoring, as well as volunteering at events, in our office or to meet a family’s needs. Without a team of people pulling together, contributing their time, talents and compassion to our mission, we could not execute a program, meet a single need, change one life, or empower one person to reach their goals, let alone the over 1800 lives we impact annually. Our community of volunteers are vital to us achieving our mission year in and year out.
In honor of April being National Volunteer Month, we want to share one of our favorite volunteer mentoring stories; one that captures the heart of a true volunteer and why volunteering is as necessary for our volunteers as it is for those for whom our volunteers serve!
Shared Moments: A Mentor’s Story
The past year had been a tough one for me. My mother-in-law, who had been very ill for quite some time, has finally passed away just before Thanksgiving. A few days following her passing, I was gathered with friends and family to laugh and to cry, and to remember the woman whom we all loved so well. On that same afternoon, I received a call from my mentee and was told in a rather frantic voice that his pet rat “Brain” had died in a tragic accident. He asked if I would come over and help him with the burial. While I said that I would, I also thought to myself how the timing was really not that great. But I knew I needed to keep my commitment, so I excused myself from the gathering to meet my mentee and help with his proceedings.
When I arrived at my mentee’s house, I was rather shocked that poor Brain was taped inside an empty Pop Tart box. I thought for a second about the Pop Tart box, and then decided that it was quite an appropriate final resting place for him. As I gathered my thoughts, it hit me that I had never presided over this type of service before. So, I decided to jump right in and ask if anyone had anything that they would like to say about Brain. Sure enough, my mentee had some final words to say and I also had a few thoughts on the good character that Brain had displayed during his short life. We cried and bowed for a moment of silence, and then Brain was quietly returned to the earth. In remembrance, we placed a simple wooden headstone at the gravesite and agreed to return in the future and engrave a final thought.
As with most memorial services where there is usually a meal to follow, this service was no different. After putting Brain to rest, my mentee and I feasted on double cheeseburgers, fries and a giant chocolate shake.
That day I got an important glimpse into what being a mentor is really all about. Being a mentor is about being there at ground zero and getting your hands dirty with life and death. My mentee lost his beloved pet rat and I lost my mother-in-law, but we both gained a deeper friendship and shared a moment in time that will impact us both for the rest of our lives.
Interested in sharing unique experiences with a kid or youth in need? Please visit our website FCNI.org or call (805) 781-3535 to learn more about our Mentor Program.