YMCA starts mentoring program for area youth
Twin Pike YMCA Executive Director Marsha Garrison sees a lot of kids with needs and that spurred her to pursue a grant the organization recently landed to mentor them.
The $103,000 grant spread over two years will pay for the salary of new Reach and Rise Mentoring Program director Lori Helkey. It will also pay for the training of mentors, the background checks on them and program costs, Helkey said in an interview last week.
Volunteer mentors will help youths 6-17 “with significant issues regular folks couldn’t deal with,” Helkey said. Mentors will be asked to spend one to three hours per week with a child over one year.
The program is not for youths with severe mental or criminal problems because services for those young people are available elsewhere, Helkey said.
The youths benefitting from the service could simeply be in a situation where both parents are working long hours to make ends meet and simply need time with an adult, she said.
The program is not just an excuse to spend grant money, Helkey said.
Almost 30 percent of Pike County youths live in single-parent households and maybe could use some mentoring, Helkey said.
Other statistics from the state of Missouri used by the YMCA for the grant show that 26 percent of Pike County youths live in homes with incomes below the federal poverty standard.
Two-thirds of the children in Louisiana schools qualify for the free and reduced lunch program, with the same rate at BONCL School.
The rate is 43 percent at the Clopton schools and 50 percent for the Bowling Green district. The state average is also 50 percent.
Data for Pike County, Ill., was not as readily available, but the rate of child abuse and neglect there is more than double the state average, according to YMCA figures.
Helkey said she personally understands the need for the program.
“I was an at-risk child myself and I was in foster care,” Helkey said.
She worked as a probation and parole officer in the Missouri prison system for 16 years before deciding that she wanted to work which youths.
Youths can be referred to the program by schools, relatives, friends or parents, Helkey said.
“The family has to give permission,” and the child needs to be committed to the program.
The meetings between the mentors and the youths can occur at the YMCA but also off-site, Helkey said. If that is the case, the meeting cannot be at the mentor’s home and must be in a public place, she added.
“The biggest thing is we need mentors,” Helkey said. “Without them, we don’t have a program.”
Those interested must be at least 23-years-old and can call Helkey at 573-754-4497 to sign up.