Christie Hyde DeNave didn’t set out to change a young person’s life, but that is exactly what she did. She didn’t do it by funding a scholarship, donating an organ or even adopting a child. Christie made a difference by simply volunteering four or five hours a month as a mentor to a young person in Central Florida’s Foster Care System.
The statistics are daunting. Fifty percent of young adults will leave foster care with no high school diploma or job. Thirty-six percent will become homeless at some point with nowhere to go. Most of these young people will live in poverty. But, you can help change these numbers! Research shows that kids linked with a caring adult at an early age are more successful maneuvering through life’s obstacles. The generous gift of your time and love can make a difference for not only these children, but for generations to come.
Embrace Families (formerly Community Based Care of Central Florida) is the leading child welfare organization in our region, serving more than 3,000 kids each day. Their services include foster care, adoption, youth transitional services and, of course, mentoring. They are currently seeking 200 new mentors for their Legacy Mentor Program, which matches teens and young adults from ages 13 to 23 in foster care or transitioning services to an adult positive role model. While adults age 25 or older of all races are welcome to apply, they specifically need African-American men and women. They’re also looking for mentors for LGBTQ youth and children with special needs.
Mentors do not serve as a case manager or foster/adoptive parent. Rather, the goal of the Legacy Mentor Program is for the adult to become a friend to their mentee and a positive influence who can help them on their journey toward adulthood. Danielle Abbey, Community Impact Manager of Embrace Families, says that each mentoring pair has the flexibility to choose what works best for them. “Some mentors take their kids out every week, others take them on an outing once a month, checking in via phone the weeks they aren’t meeting in person.”
Hyde DeNave likes to introduce her mentee, Phrankie, to new experiences that she might not otherwise have had as a child in foster care. “Many of them are simple things, like attending the Winter Park Arts Festival or trying a new type of food for dinner. Mentoring does not have to be full of glamorous and expensive outings. What matters most is showing your mentee you care and are someone they can trust and confide in,” DeNave shares.
So many young people don’t have a positive influence in their life. The mentor program at Embrace Families is designed to show these often-forgotten children and young adults that, no matter the cards they were dealt, they can rise above it.
But mentoring doesn’t just offer benefits to those being mentored. As Christie quickly realized, “The purpose of doing philanthropic work isn’t to make you feel good, but honestly, it does. In a world where we tend to put ourselves first, mentoring allows you to take a step back and invest in someone else. I have a young person who looks to me for guidance, and I know I am making an impact. Phrankie is more than just my mentee – she has become an extended member of our family.”
If you are interested in becoming a mentor, are at least 25 years of age, and have your own transportation and are willing to transport the youth, please email Camber Page at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Embrace Families, visit their website: http://www.protectandinspire.org/.