ALPENA - Alpena Mayor Carol Shafto has seen first hand the importance of being a mentor for a young child. She also has reaped the rewards of participating in a local mentoring program. Now Shafto is spearheading the Alpena Mayor's Mentoring Program, which she hopes will bring companionship to the child and adult alike.
Shafto said she decided to take on a "little" four years ago after her children had grown and left home. She said spending time with the child was not only beneficial to the child but to her as well.
"I raised two boys and was a single parent for the last several years, and my boys went away to college," Shafto said. "I learned about the need one day for mentors. I signed up and was matched. I asked for a child that no one else had claimed or waiting a long time. We have spent time together for four years, and he draws me pictures I hang on my refrigerator and made me cards when I was sick. He is a member of my family and he always will be. It is very rewarding."
Shafto said there are many retired people in Alpena who are looking for something to do. She said seniors have a lot to offer the children with their life experiences, hobbies and trade skills.
"There are a lot of retirees in Alpena, and I think a lot of them have a lot to offer and some time on their hands," Shafto said. "I think there are people out there that have the time and skills who can really reach out and make that difference."
Mentoring Director Erich Schlueter said there are two types of mentoring programs locally. One allows the mentor to visit the child at school, while the other allows for more time and activities.
"The community-based Club Bigs Program are adult citizens 21 and older that get matched up and spend time with them. They can watch movies, play games, go fishing. Just to have someone to spend time with them and do things with them and to let them know they have someone on their side they can count on," Schlueter said. "The other is the Lunch Buddy Program where you go into the school one day a week, on whatever day works best for them. We have a special room set up, and they have lunch with them, play a game or help them with their school work. "
Susan Nielsen, the director of the Alpena Boys & Girls Club, said there are more children in Alpena who need or want mentors than people in the area realize.
"At the club we service children from all walks of life. There are children from prominent families and children who come from poor homes," Nielsen said. "Without fail every child can use a mentor in one way or another. It is not about money, it is not about what you have or don't have, it's about what the child has and what the child doesn't have. What every child wants is one-on-one attention, and the mentoring program gives them that very special time they need."
For more information feel free to call Nielsen or Schlueter at the Alpena Boys & Girls Club at 356-0214.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.