Estherville Rotarians Thursday how Kinship continues to serve Emmet County, but in an expanded role.
Norm Johnson, executive director of Bedell Family YMCA which administers the program, and Kinship coordinator Melony Renze also explained the natural fit that Kinship has with the YMCA.
For several years, Kinship of Emmet County served youth within the county. However, as prospective grant dollars dwindled, the organization looked to the west a couple years ago for a partner. That was when Kinship of Emmet County joined forces with Kinship of Dickinson County, both under the auspices of the Bedell Family YMCA.
Johnson said the YMCA'S mission of youth development, healthy living and social responsibility makes a good fit with the Kinship mission - creating healthy relationships. With both community-based and student-based mentoring, Kinship addresses mentoring at a number of levels.
Johnson was also quick to dispel a common misconception that mentoring was only for single-parent families or those with financial difficulties. Virtually all children can benefit from mentoring, he said.
Mentoring provides boundaries so youth can develop self-esteem as a defense mechanism against inappropriate peer pressure. It also helps reduce risky behavior in youth, and mentors help demonstrate healthy relationships, something that carries on in children's social relationships as well.
Renze said mentors act as trusted guides or friends, spending a consistent amount of time with a youth.
Renze said mentors establish a positive personal relationship with youth and help them develop life skills. They also assist youth in other areas and so they can learn how to work with other cultural groups.
Mentors only need to set aside an hour a week for one year. They must be of good character, be a positive role model, have a valid driver's license and have a good driving record.
Mentor duties include initiating regular contact and making weekly visits with the child, maintain ongoing contact, complete occasional paperwork and attend workshops, meetings and group activities.
Mentors benefit by seeing a child develop self-confidence, establish positive values and learn new skills. In turn, children are likely to reciprocate love and support they get from mentors.
Renze said Bedell Family YMCA has 49 matches total. Of those, 11 are academic matches. There are 22 community-based matches in Emmet County with 16 in Dickinson County.
One upcoming activity is a trip to Kings Pointe Water Park in Storm Lake June 30.
Bedell Family YMCA Kinship will also be providing an after-school program during the in-service early out program at Estherville Lincoln Central Wednesdays starting this fall. Johnson said it currently provides an after-school program at Lakes area schools, and he believes this fall would present an opportunity to work with ELC. School-based mentors will be available at both Demoney and Roosevelt elementaries.
"We're excited about that," said Johnson. "We think it's a good fit."
Anyone interested in becoming a Kinship mentor may call Renze at (712) 330-9738.