Grants keep Club Mentor going

By Loretto J. Hulse, Herald staff writerSeptember 2, 2010 

KENNEWICK -- In the Mid-Columbia, stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been spent to clean up Hanford, assist first-time homebuyers, help small businesses and finish rebuilding Road 170 in Franklin County.

But few people know it also helped pay for Club Mentor at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties last year. The money runs out this month, and while Greg Falk, Boys & Girls Clubs president, expects the federal grant to be renewed, it hasn't happened yet.

"You know government. Paperwork is slow, slow, slow," he said.

Which is why he was happy to receive a $5,000 check Wednesday from the Washington State Mentors, or WSM, and the Bank of America Charitable Foundation.

"This money will get (the mentor program) to October," Falk said.

The check was one of 16 being delivered across the state by Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, co-chairman of WSM, and representatives of the Bank of America.

This is the third time the Boys & Girls Clubs has received a grant from the two groups.

"These grants have allowed us to keep the Club Mentor Program running and even expand it," Falk said. "I'm really thrilled to receive it."

The program began at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties eight or nine years ago, said Jamie Luce, who oversees it.

"Anyone can be a mentor," she said. "Mentoring activities can be nothing more than spending a few hours playing dodgeball, helping with an art project at the holidays or going on a hike. We have many different kids who need many different things."

Many youths in the Boys & Girls Clubs come from low-income, single-parent households or are in foster care.

"They need to interact with an adult role model," Luce said, "someone who's willing to share knowledge and experiences."

The Tri-City organization also has two other mentoring programs.

"Career Launch teaches teens how to obtain and maintain a job," Luce said. "In Smart Girls, volunteers work with young women, teaching them about the many changes they will go through in their teens both physically and mentally."

Mentors can volunteer once a week, once a month, even once a year, depending on how much time they have available. Luce makes up a schedule of activities a month ahead, and volunteers can pick and choose what suits their schedules and interests.

Last year, 335 youths were involved in the Club Mentor Program, which is open to any youth in the Boys & Girls Clubs.

"But we serve 3,000 children every year, and we need to choose individuals who need that positive adult role model at that time in their lives," Luce said.

There are nine mentoring locations in the Tri-Cities and Benton City.

To volunteer to be a mentor, contact Jamie Luce at 543-9980 or jamie@kidexpert.org.

-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com

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