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Make a Positive Impact in A Child's Life: Become a Mentor

December 19, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - With the holidays here, experts offer a reminder that perhaps the greatest gift you can give is your time, care and support. Mentoring often has life-lasting, positive effects on a child at risk, according to Margie Edberg, director of operations at Kinship of Greater Minneapolis.

Edberg says most of the kids Kinship serves are from single-parent households in poverty who just need another adult figure in their lives.

"Usually, they need a male role model to kind of help them through life. Someone who can listen to them, maybe take them out of the household and do things with them that they might not normally get to do with a busy, single parent."

Studies show that mentoring reduces everything from drug and alcohol use to school dropouts and teen pregnancy. Edberg says volunteers need to commit to spending an hour a week with a child, and suggests that a good approach is to have them become part of your normal life and routine. That may mean going to a ballgame or movie, she explains, or it could be just taking care of projects at home or running errands, like to the grocery store.

"In a grocery store, you can talk about math and science and where foods come from, so even the everyday things that we take for granted can be still exciting and different, in the eyes of a child."

Edberg says Kinship volunteers only need to make a one-year commitment to the program, although the average relationship between a local mentor and child lasts 3.5 years. That compares favorably to the national average of only nine months, she adds.

"Overall, people really want to help children. That's something this city is very supportive of. People know there's a need to help kids, and they want to do that."

Kinship currently has around 300 children matched in Greater Minneapolis, but more than 100 are still waiting. More information is available at http://kinship.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN