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!
Volunteerism should be a big deal in our country. It is universally valued--nobody in their right mind would say disparaging words about volunteers or volunteering. Not everyone can be a philanthropic giver, but most everyone can be a volunteer. You don’t have to have wealth or material resource; you just need to have time, heart and a sense of adventure. Volunteering is not age constrained and can be enjoyed by both the young and old. Volunteering is not only good for society--organizations like the Family Care Network depend on it--but it’s good for you, the Volunteer.
I have always loved working with children and I hope that I have some positive impact in their lives. I knew that I had a great volunteer opportunity when I read the Family Care Network’s (FCNI) mentorship request online. It had my name written all over it!