HARRISBURG – An area organization hopes the spririt of giving continues past the holidays and into the new year.
Mentors 4 Kids, a non-profit organization who helps match children with adult mentors, wants to start 2017 with more volunteers who will be positive role models.
"January is National Mentoring Month," Mentors 4 Kids executive director Vickey Taake said. "We are trying to use that month as a springboard to reintroduce mentoring in the communities we serve."
Mentors in the program fill a niche in the lives of children who may be in what Taake terms "not an ideal situation."
Often, that means there are a limited number of adults in the child's life who have the time and attention to dedicate to one child.
Or, the adult or adults raising a child physically are unable to keep up with an active child.
"We had one household where the great-grandmother and the grandma were raising a little boy who was 6," she said. "There were certain things they just couldn't do."
Not being able to ride a bike or play ball with a child can limit that child's life experience, Taake said.
That's one way mentors can help.
"That's where a mentor comes in, takes them out of that situation and there are no distractions," she said. "It gives them time to just be themselves."
As such, mentors also can be an outlet for honest and candid conversations, she said.
"It's important that the child know they're not there to judge, they're not going to tattletale on them," Taake said.
She also said in the event a child did reveal something of a threatening nature to the child's well-being, mentors are duty-bound to alert the proper people.
David Morse, an insurance and investment representative for Country Financial in Harrisburg, began serving as a mentor in February 2016. With nearly a year in, Morse said the program is rewarding for mentee and mentor alike.
"I think the thing they get is, someone is interested in them and takes the time to spend time with them," he said. "The reason I got involved in the program is, I was raised by a single parent, my mother. I understand what it's like to not have a father figure in my life directly. My grandfather was a part of my life, but he wasn't there every day."
Giving back to the community is rewarding in its own right, he said.
"I think I've benefited from it," he said. "I think anytime you're doing something for someone else, it's more blessed to give than receive."
Most importantly, Morse said, a mentor is making a positive difference in a child's life. He used a popular anecdote about a girl attempting to rescue thousands of starfish stranded on a beach. When a pessimistic man tells the girl she can't make a difference because there are too many starfish, she throws another back into the ocean and responds, "I made a difference to that one."
"You don't have to have any special talent, you just have to be a positive part of the child's life," he said.
Age is not a disqualifier for those wishing to mentor, according to Taake. Some mentors may be as young as college enrollees as long as they are 19 or older. They have had a mentor who was 90. Regardless of age, a consistent time commitment is needed, she said.
"If you let this child down, you are just one more adult who has let this child down," Taake said.
The need for mentors continues to grow on a continual basis, she said, and she hopes that by the time January arrives, quite a few more volunteers will be ready.
"Come January, I would love to have 17 new mentor applicants from the six counties we serve," she said.
Mentors 4 Kids serves Saline, Gallatin, White, Williamson, Franklin and Jefferson counties.