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COACH Kids looks for more mentors

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COACH KIDS: Mentors, mentees and family pose for a photo at the annual Thanksgiving Event on Nov. 8 at First Church of the Nazarene.
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THANKFUL: COACH Kids mentor Kim Marshall poses with Naomi during last month’s Thanksgiving event last month at the First Church of the Nazarene. They were matched six-and-a-half years ago.
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MENTORS: Mentor John Meredith, left, sits with David duringthe COACH Kids Pool Party last June. COACH Kids will offer training Saturday to those who would like to be a mentor.

By AARON KENNEDY - akennedy@ftimes.com

For the last 10 years, COACH Kids has been training mentors for the youth of Clinton County. On Saturday, the organization will welcome those from the community who are interested in becoming a mentor in order to help encourage and empower local kids who are in need of another positive influence in their lives.

The COACH Kids Mentor Orientation and Training will start at 10 a.m. Saturday at the COACH Kids office at 554 W. Walnut St. in Frankfort. They describe the monthly training and orientation meetings as, “A no pressure opportunity to find out how you can change a kids’ life in as little as 30 minutes a week at school or four hours a month in the community.”

“It is something we have done new this year and will continue into 2019,” executive director Susan Grasham said. “These are for people who are interested in this but don’t want to make a commitment yet. They just want to find out more about how to do this and what’s involved.

“It is no more than 90 minutes, and it is here at the office,” she added. “We talk about the benefits of youth mentoring but also how to start your relationship, the stages of mentoring, tips on how to be successful in youth mentoring and pitfalls that you can make if you maybe act too quickly.”

COACH Kids has two programs – Local Heros and the Community Hope Mentoring Program. The Local Heros program is a Clinton County school-based mentoring program in which mentors make a one-year commitment with 30 minutes per week spent with a matched child. Its +PLUS program is for those who can also commit time to a child outside of school and over summer break.

Those who mentor in the Hope and Promise programs offer year-round, one-on-one mentoring to a child at four to six hours a month.

Grasham says that COACH Kids has hot record levels of participation in the schools across the county and more adult mentors are stepping up to meet the needs of the children. She says that mentoring makes the world a kinder and more compassionate place.

“In today’s culture, we tend to discount relationships and the power and the importance of positive relationships in our lives,” Grasham said. “You can see the downfall of that is increased suicide, increased drug use and early sexual activity in kids. Mentors provide that extra connection to a kid who, for whatever reason, are at risk. They may have lost a family member. Their parents may have gone through a divorce, and they aren’t handling it well. Maybe they have an incarcerated parent or sibling. These kids are identified for one reason or another, whether it is behavioral or emotional or it is just that they have tried everything else.

“A lot of time, the kids get referred through a school councilor, but a lot are self-referred by the parent or the guardian,” she added. “We have a lot of kids being raised by grandparents. These kiddos just need that extra relationship connection. And we know that the positive effects of youth mentoring.”

Despite his many other obligations, city councilman and business owner Eric Woods has been a mentor for around 13 years now.

“I would say that (having mentors) is absolutely crucial in the day and age today with all of the outside influences on young people these days,” Woods said. “The program is indispensably for helping young people who are in need of someone willing to spend time with them and to impart some wisdom and education.

“The four different boys I have mentored over the years have had some different needs,” he added. “Some have not had a father at all in their life. It is something that I wanted to give back to the community and those young people in need. I think it has been very beneficial to both them and me. I have had a great time spending time with them and doing activities. We try to keep it fun rather than just doing homework and things like that. I found that is what a lot of these young men need. It has been a joy to work with all of them and see them grow. The program helps put it all together with these children in need. I know the ladies (at COACH Kids) work very hard on these matches to put the right people with the right children. They have some great people in that program.”

Woods added that he intends to stay with the program and that there is always a waiting list of children in need of mentors.

Grasham told a story about one of her mentors who had been matched with a child in the Local Heros and the +PLUS program.

“Aaron Gallichan was in here for his match meeting with his kiddo, and he had been with this kid for two or three years,” she said. “(The mother) said, ‘How much is this going to cost me?’ I know that this relationship had meant a lot to them. And our program manager said, ‘Nothing. It is all free. It is provided to you.’ And (the mother) started crying, and then she said, ‘Well, how much does Aaron get paid?’ And Aaron said, ‘No. I do this because I love your kid.’

“She said that they were all crying,” Grasham added. “When one person gives to another person something without anything in return, the kiddo just benefits from that.”

Grasham said that January is National Mentoring Month, and COACH Kids will have a Mentors and Mentees Manners Event sponsored by Jimmy Johns starting at 6 p.m. Jan. 14 at Community Christian Church.

To contact COACH Kids, go to www.COACHkids.org online or call 654-8812.