I foster every day...I encourage and promote growth and healing in the lives of my bio children and in the youth who I mentor. If I were just to tell you that I foster, you probably and most likely, would think that I am talking about “foster care.”
Lottie didn’t have a typical childhood. Growing up with her dad who lived with a medical condition that left him physically challenged meant that Lottie had to carry more of the caregiving duties because he wasn’t able. Everything in Lottie's life took a backseat to her dad's condition and needs, including school and her own social development. Eventually her dad’s condition worsened and he was moved into a full-time care facility. Without any family, Lottie was placed into foster care at the age of 14.
January is National Mentor Month, and during the month we like to honor all of the different individuals who volunteer their time and energy to support our community’s youth and families. At FCNI, we have multiple volunteer roles, including mentor, tutor, career mentor and admin volunteer; and all of these roles directly help us achieve our mission, “to enhance the wellbeing of children, youth and families in partnership with our community.” Matt Hanley, a local attorney, is currently a Mentor with us.
Mentoring with the Family Care Network has been an amazing experience; so much so that I can’t imagine stopping even though my one year commitment is complete. When I first decided to volunteer with children, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I knew I liked kids, but was afraid that they wouldn’t like me. And I had no idea if I could legitimately be called a patient or flexible person. But after mentoring a 14 year old girl for 12 months, I feel like I’ve learned a ton, especially about who I am as a person.
Your fridge is much more than a place for groceries and leftovers. In fact, your fridge shows what matters to you. I’m not talking about whether you’re eating a balanced diet, or whether you are trying to save the planet. Matter of fact, I’m not even referring to what’s inside your fridge. I’m talking about what’s on the outside of your fridge.
As National Mentor Appreciation Month comes to a close, I feel compelled to shine a spotlight on those individuals who have served as my Mentors during my life’s journey. I truly feel indebted to the amazing individuals who imparted great wisdom and inspiration when our paths crossed. I share this is an encouragement to anybody considering becoming a mentor – you’ll never know how powerful and influential you can be until you do it!
“We all need someone who inspires us to do better than we know how.”
Why am I so passionate about mentoring?
By mentoring, you are willing to give your time, be a consistent person who can offer advice and support, share your life experiences and help mentees navigate challenges. Although the purpose of mentoring is to make a positive, long-lasting impression on mentees, often times these effects are experienced by many mentors themselves.
Being a mentor to anyone is not easy but being a mentor to a child or youth who’ve experienced trauma and/or instability, can be especially difficult. Fulfilling this important role for a child or youth who is healing from various hurts such as neglect, abuse or unmet mental health needs takes a lot of patience, commitment, empathy, good humor, compassion, creativity and, last but not least, time. Is it any wonder that we as a nation dedicate an entire month to celebrate the role of mentoring and those who choose to mentor?
Volunteers are an essential element of FCNI. So much so, that we have an entire department dedicated to working with the 500+ volunteers who work with us each year--some as mentors or tutors, and others who work on our fundraising events or help with administrative tasks. Our volunteers dedicate over 3,000 hours every year to our mission--that’s a lot of time, energy and compassion in motion!