Friday, December 14, 2018

Trusted Mentors, the wind under a mentor's wings

This blog is a copy of a speech given by Louise, a mentor with one of our partner agencies, the Changing Lives Forever (CLF) through St. Vincent de Paul.  She spoke at a recruitment event for the program at Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Catholic Church. It provides a perspective on both the program and the act of being a mentor.

"I am a mentor with the Changing Lives Forever program. Started by St. Vincent DePaul in 2011, IHM hosted its first class last year at the MLK Center at 40th & Penn. Changing Lives Forever is a 16 week program free and open to anyone who wants to begin a journey to change their lives.  

These participants have had any number of obstacles in their lives: poverty, poor choices, poor opportunity – the CLF program offers them the resources and tools they need to make real, lasting changes in their lives.  

Because no life is totally changed in 16 weeks, program participants are offered the option of a mentor to continue the journey with them for 12-18 months.  

I am here today to ask you to consider becoming a mentor.  

I was quite hesitant last year when a similar call was made. How in the world would I know what to say, what to do? How would I not want to just “rescue” my mentee, giving her fish rather than teaching her how to fish? How would I have the presence of mind to say and do the right thing, which is rarely the same as the easiest thing? And further, my work and travel schedule would make it hard for me to be a constant and consistent presence.  

Making no serious commitment, I signed up and attended the two training classes conducted by an organization I’d never heard of: Trusted Mentors. It turns out, they are truly the wind under a mentor’s wings. The training is excellent and best of all, I was assigned a match manager who is available any time I need her.  

And oh boy, have I needed her. I was assigned to Beth, a 48 yr old woman. Beth had lost her way so many years ago and between alcohol and some bad choices, she is unemployed, trying to stay sober and tentatively living with her daughter and granddaughters. Beth and I have been through a lot since we were matched in January. As I got my footing, my Trusted Mentors match manager and Diane Powers helped and supported me. They are there any time I need advice. Beth is still very much a work in progress, but I have learned how to be her advocate, a steadfast presence who sees hope when she and everyone around her wants to give up on her.  

I will never get Mentor of the Year. I am gone a lot, Beth is hard to reach because she has no cell phone or email, but I am in this for the long haul. Beth and I share a dream of her sober, employed, with a small place to call her own. With agency, making her own decisions. She knows I am like her external conscience, not letting her give up on herself.  

This year’s class at IHM has 11 women and 3 men. They are parents, grandparents, singles, a few are veterans. With so many women, there will be an especial need for female mentors. This Wednesday, Sept 12 at 6:00pm in the Gathering Space there is an information session for anyone even slightly interested. No commitment! As a human being, you have what it takes to be a mentor – and you will be supported. God does not call the equipped, God equips the called. 

I was born standing on 3rd base, with so many advantages. Most of us here were. But as that song I’ve sung a million times says: Whatsoever you do for the least of your brothers and sisters, that you do unto me. " 

Are you ready to mentor? Click on the Volunteer button and sign up! 

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