Changing a child’s life an hour at a time

Published 2:14 pm Tuesday, January 10, 2006

By By SEAN HILLIARD / Niles Daily Star
NILES - An hour and a half, spread over a month's time, is all it takes for one adult to change a child's life.
That was the message of the hour at this week's Niles-Buchanan Rotary Club luncheon, held Monday at the Millennium.
In fact, this is the message of the entire month of January, according to Kathryn S. Rossow, executive director of the Volunteer Center of Southwest Michigan. January is National Mentoring Month.
The Lunch Buddies Program is a prime example of this philosophy. Through the program, a qualified adult volunteers to spend three of his or her lunch hours over a month-long period at school with a child. The lunch can last between a half-hour and an hour. During this period, the adult will read with the child, play a game or work together on homework.
Youths mentored in this way are 46 percent less likely to use drugs, 59 percent more likely to get better grades and 73 percent more likely to raise their life goals, according to the Volunteer Center.
The Volunteer Center also has a fundraiser coming up on June 17 called the “Human Race.”
It involves a series of certified events: a 10K race, a 5K run/walk and a 1 mile fun walk. Groups participating will raise money for their specific organization, and 10 percent of the money raised will go to the Volunteer Center.
In addition to mentoring youths, the Volunteer Center works with a different group of people: managers of not-for-profit organizations.
Through 13 two-hour sessions, managers will receive both level one and level two boardsmanship training for a fee.
They will also take a certification test at the sessions' conclusion. During the sessions, the managers will receive training in subjects such as balancing work and life and what baby boomers expect from mentoring compared to what other generations expect, according to Rossow.
Rossow has been executive director of the Volunteer Center since 1977. Her column appears in the Niles Daily Star on Tuesdays.
The Volunteer Center serves the three counties of Berrien, Cass and Van Buren. It has offices in Niles and St. Joseph.
For more information, or to become a mentor, call (800)VOLUNTEER (865-8683). Residents of Niles can call 683-5464.