At a glance
* Who: Mentor Me
* What: Open house to showcase its new location
* When: Jan. 23
* Where: 101 Meadow Drive, Suite J, Cumming
* Contact: (678) 341-8028 or firstname.lastname@example.org
CUMMING — Children are our future. One local agency knows that and, in connection with January’s National Mentoring Month, is open for business and busier than ever.
Mentor Me North Georgia Inc. matches adult volunteers to children ages 6-17 who need a positive reinforcement in their lives outside of school.
“Maybe they’re at risk of dropping out of school, or there are just not enough positive influences in their life. [Mentors are] there to have a good role model to look towards,” said Sylvia Cardona, executive director of the United Way agency.
The new year saw Mentor Me open its new location at 101 Meadow Drive in Cumming. Cardona said the space is bigger and “a more family friendly space than before. It’s cozier the way it is laid out and decorated.”
When mentors and children are matched, they only use the space for initial interviews and potentially a meeting location, Cardona said.
The point of the friendship — similar to a Big Brothers Big Sisters partnership — is for them to gain experiences together, whether that’s going bowling, going to a park or watching a sporting event.
Even though the new building is used mostly as a central location, Cardona said mentees often have younger siblings, “so there’s a little space for them to play and more privacy for children and families to be interviewed.”
Mentor Me recruits, trains and matches volunteers, who must be at least 18 , to children on an individual or group basis, usually spending time together once a week.
“The goal is to have every child in our community who needs or wants a mentor to be able to have one,” Cardona said.
The children are usually from single-parent families or are being raised by a grandparent or other relatives. More than 1,000 children have been mentored in the agency’s 12 years of operation.
There are currently 73 children enrolled in the program, Cardona said, but she hopes to expand it with the new, bigger-and-better location. Usually, they have a 25- to 30-person waiting list, depending on the time of year.
“Spending an hour a week with a young person can make a big impact,” she said.
Mentors are not matched with children on a first-come-first-serve basis, which is why the waiting list can get lengthy. They wait for two people who share interests and have compatible personalities to meet each other.
She said this leads to lasting mentorships. Volunteers stay mentors for an average of two years.
Mentors range from retirees to stay-at-home parents, but most are parents with children “who know what it’s like to go through [parenting].”
Adults can also lead a group program as a one-time commitment for 30 minutes. Group program leaders are asked to share their career and learning experiences.
“It’s an easy first step,” Cardona said. “Kind of like an enhanced career day.”