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Avalon Center looking for a few good mentors

Avalon Center looking for a few good mentors
Leah Weber, Avalon Center
By James Grob,

Leah Weber at the Avalon Center in Charles City said that opportunities are limitless when a mentor makes a lifetime connection with a child.

So if you’re a Charles City adult with a clean record and about an hour a week to spare, now’s your chance to make a difference.

“We’re looking for adults who can be a positive role models for kids,” Weber said. “Sometimes kids don’t have that, and kids can always use some self-esteem building, especially after this crazy COVID year we’ve all had.”

Prospective mentors are invited to the Avalon Center’s Charles City office on 705 N. Main St. on Thursday, July 29, from 4-6 p.m. to learn all about it.

Weber said that becoming a one-on-one mentor is a fulfilling volunteer opportunity that benefits youth in the community. If nothing else, those who attend the gathering on Thursday can enjoy some free cookies from Bakery Lane and can register for a chance to win two tickets to the Iowa State Fair.

The Avalon Center recently received a “decategorization grant” from the state in the amount of $8,915 to start a mentorship program.

The purpose of a decategorization grant is to support local, free events and programs that support children and families in Iowa who could be at risk of child welfare or juvenile court system involvement.

According to the Iowa Department of Human Services, decategorization of child welfare and juvenile justice funding is an initiative intended to establish systems of delivering human services based upon client needs, to replace systems based upon a multitude of categorical funding programs and funding sources, each with different service definitions and eligibility requirements.

The funding is designed to redirect child welfare and juvenile justice funding to services which are more preventive, family centered, and community-based in order to reduce use of restrictive approaches that rely on institutional, out-of-home and out-of-community care.

Mentored youth are between the ages of 8 and 18. Weber said that some of the benefits young people get out of a mentor relationship can include improved self-esteem, better school performance, stronger relationships with parents, teachers and friends and a reduced risk of addiction.

“It’s a great thing for the youth. It gives them something to look forward to every week,” she said. “They know that they have someone who will listen to them and support them.”

Mentors act as a positive role model for youth and can be a friend, coach, advisor and self-esteem builder, Weber said. She said the program would be very similar to a Big Brother/Big Sister program.

A one-on-one mentor should be 18 years old or older with clean record. Thorough background checks will be done on prospective mentors.

The Avalon Center is a non-profit social service agency which provides mental health counseling and many other services. It has been in existence since 2000, with offices in Charles City and Mason City.

Weber has been with the Avalon Center since its inception in 2002 as the executive director. She has been working in the field of social services for more than 30 years. Weber said she would be happy to come speak to any community groups or civic organizations regarding the Avalon Center’s mentoring program.

“We’re hoping we can reach out to the community and speak to a lot of different groups,” Weber said. “We’re hoping some people will step forward and commit to four hours per month.”

Expectations of a one-on-one mentor are to spend time and listen to concerns and problems, be a role model, provide positive reinforcement, introduce youth to new experiences, show interest in academic progress and offer to assist with projects and assignments.

They re also expected to encourage responsible behavior and self-motivation, invite joint decision making, give constructive feedback, help youth find solutions to problems, share wisdom and life experiences and build trust by being open and honest and valuing differences.

Weber said that mentors are expected to maintain confidentiality, but are encouraged to share positive mentoring experiences with friends and co-workers.

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