I’ve known about the Mentor Upstate program for years, but I became passionate about it once I lived it. Mentor Upstate started in Greenville by a faith-driven couple who saw the need for healthy adult influence in the lives of kids of Greenville’s inner city. Mentor Upstate works to pair a child in need of some adult encouragement through partnerships between schools, businesses, and churches. It is a great program, but unfortunately, there was not a program in our area. My family fostered children, and walking through the fostering experience quickly revealed how much I take mentorship for granted. My children have church leaders, family friends, and coaches who pour into their lives and provide them much needed guidance. But, many children do not have adults who consistently encourage them and help them grow. The kids we fostered did not have these adult figures in their lives or people who spoke to them about life choices. Even if children have loving parents or adults who care, some come in and out of their lives without consistency. And, then there are kids who come from difficult places that may have never had an adult encourage them or even listen to them. Seeing it firsthand led me to contact Mentor Upstate to see how I could help bring the program to my county. At this time, I am working with schools, area businesses and churches to recruit, train, and equip mentors to make a difference in the lives of children. Mentors meet with their student just once a week for lunch at school. I’ve been meeting with a sweet young girl for three years now. She knows to expect my visits, and our relationship has grown as a result. I often see where people want to help but they don’t know how, so they just give gifts. Gifts are wonderful, but consistent adult interaction is what makes a long-lasting impact on these children. Kids don’t need quick fixes—they need relationships. One hour a week is enough time to be a voice of influence. While I can’t foster several kids or mentor every child in need, I can use the gifts God has given me and the passion He’s placed on my heart to tell others about the need, and prepare them to speak life into the lives of children who need to hear it.
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