Local view: Mentor Duluth advocates do great work for little money
Consider the little boy who had a parent die of a drug overdose, whose other parent is similarly grappling with drugs, who takes medication for hyperactivity and who is struggling in school. This is just an example -- and only one -- of the less-...
Consider the little boy who had a parent die of a drug overdose, whose other parent is similarly grappling with drugs, who takes medication for hyperactivity and who is struggling in school. This is just an example -- and only one -- of the less-than-ideal situations that are challenging the advocates for the YMCA's Mentor Duluth program.
When a prospective mentor volunteers to be matched up with a boy, advocates, as part of their day-to-day duties, approve the arrangements. Considering a social worker's salary, can this be described as day-to-day dedication? I wonder if society appreciates how it benefits from these professionals who make good program advocates. They get up every morning to advance the concept that a positive, same-sex adult role model can influence the development of a needy child.
Consider the risk of not having that role model. Instead of growing up and contributing to society, a child could grow up to be a drain on society, perhaps as a result of drug abuse.
I'm sure the Mentor Duluth program has "organizational inefficiencies," as claimed in the Sept. 5 letter, "Potential volunteer frustrated with agency." I'd imagine even Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity had organizational inefficiencies from time to time.
But I'm glad the letter writer spoke up; he made a couple of important highlights.
First, he seemed committed to volunteering for a children's program. Bless his heart because society needs more like him.
But as for Mentor Duluth not accepting him into its program: I can understand advocates' desire to find local volunteers. Some volunteers have come into the program sincerely wanting to help a child only to find that reality trumps good intentions due to long work hours, study demands or whatever. Add a long distance between mentor and mentee, and the success of the match is at higher risk. So can the letter writer find a way to volunteer closer to his own home? If not, how about being a pen pal to a child in a third-world country?
Second, the writer highlighted the existence of Mentor Duluth. As I understand things -- and I am not employed by the YMCA -- there are other programs directly or indirectly related to Mentor Duluth. There is Running Buddies, which pairs a child and an adult in a short-term, healthy-lifestyle program. The program usually culminates in running together in a 5K race. And there is Five Points, a tutoring program with participating schools.
Other support beyond volunteering is needed for such programs. Hats off to the Duluth Optimist Club, which has sponsored picnics for Mentor Duluth staff and volunteers. Maybe the letter writer could encourage a club in his community to support a children's program.
In this tight economy, it's scary to think about the future of worthwhile social programs. Unlike a university, wealthy alumni of mentoring programs rarely, if ever, make huge endowments to a local YMCA.
I sure wish there was a way to better compensate people who dedicate their lives to helping the disadvantaged among us.
I hope the letter writer can forgive the program advocates at Mentor Duluth if they failed to communicate quickly after he offered to be a mentor. Perhaps they dreaded having to say no to a seemingly qualified volunteer. The advocates are the ones behind the scenes, giving support to every mentor-mentee relationship. Who knows, a successful match just might prevent the abuse of drugs from being passed on to the next generation.
Jack Salmela of Duluth mentored two boys through the Mentor Duluth program; participated twice in its affiliated program, Running Buddies; and tutored a boy through another affiliated program called Five Points.