Simple pleasures are the most meaningful

Two-time Kinship mentor Lois Malek helps her Kinkid Sarah Kahler with a craft at a recent Kinship group activity.

Kinship matches make lasting memories

By Jennie ZeitlerStaff WriterKinship mentors and Kinkids discover through their time together that it is not the fancy expensive activities that mean the most — it is simply the time spent together talking and listening to each other which creates the most meaningful memories.“We asked Kinkids what their most special memories are and one of them totally bushwacked me,” said Kinship Director Aaron Olson. “The memory he treasured most was just talking with his mentor.”Kinship is an agency which matches mentors with children living in single-parent homes to provide the kids with someone older who offers friendship, advice and opportunities to grow and learn.Children and teens are referred to Kinship by Social Services and school counselors as well as by parents making a phone call.

Mentors are community volunteers. “They are just average people with a heart that cares,” said Olson.

An orientation is given to prospective mentors along with youth protection training. References are checked and a nationwide background check made.

Matches are based on hobbies and interests. When an initial match is made, phone calls are made to both the mentor and Kinkid, asking for their reactions. Then there is a first meeting to see if things “click.”

“Mentors provide consistency and stability for their Kinkids,” Olson said.

Kinship often hears that a mentor volunteered in order to make a difference in a child’s life, but they took more out of the match than the child did.

Mentors are asked to give only four hours of their time every month to their Kinkid. Offering possible activities to fill that time, Kinship sponsors at least one group activity per month. Last year there were 16 activities ranging from snowshoeing and tubing at Camp Ripley to a Santa’s workshop and baking night, trips to ball games, canoeing and fishing outings.

“Although the staff facilitates an activity, the interaction with the kids is the activity,” Olson said.

Kinship mentor Jon Adams fishing with his Kinkid Dakota DeMarre during a summer “Lets Go Fishing” outing.

But every match does things differently. Some pairs come to most of the Kinship activities, whereas some matches would rather do things on their own and come to very few of the organized activities.

Currently, 23 Kinship matches exist in Morrison County. The goal is to make one new match every month. Three of those mentors had previous matches, and wanted to do it again.

One mentor is in his fifth mentor relationship with a Kinkid. Another 77-year-old man who recently moved to Little Falls really valued time spent in the Big Brother program and wants to do it again through Kinship.

Mentors can attend a “mentor night out” about twice a year, a time to share what is working with their match and what isn’t. It’s a time for fellowship.

It is a bittersweet time when Kinkids grow up, bringing an end to the formal relationship.

“I can’t believe (Kinkid) Ryan has graduated and gone off to college,” said mentor Mike Barber. “I know I’m going to miss him and I hope we stay in contact. Mentoring Ryan taught me that I can create a positive experience for a child just by doing simple but new and fun things together.”

Kinship sponsors an annual soup and chili cookoff fundraiser every March.

There are currently six kids waiting to be matched, and eight more in the application process.

Kinship asks people to consider taking the little bit of time it takes to mentor a child. You will make a difference.

For more information, call (320) 632-8806.