Mentors make huge impact

Published 9:40 am Thursday, November 1, 2007

By By ERIKA PICKLES / Niles Daily Star
NILES – Being a mentor can significantly impact the life of any child. Mentors are supportive, fun, great role models, they listen, give advice and even help educate children. To sum it up, mentors are heroes who can help bring a positive influence into the life of a child.
Michele Wiltfong hopes to help bring more mentors to Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties.
"We are looking to increase the number of mentors in the area, especially males. There is a big need right now for male mentors not only in this area, but nationally as well," Wiltfong said.
Wiltfong, who grew up in the area, came to the Volunteer Center of Southwest Michigan just two weeks ago. She is a member of the AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), which allows full-time members to create and expand programs that ultimately bring low-income individuals and communities out of poverty.
Wiltfong also committed to one year of service with the Mentor Michigan Program.
Mentor Michigan, led by Governor Jennifer Granholm and First Gentleman Dan Mulhern, is working to ensure that all of Michigan's youth have ongoing relationships with stable, caring individuals. Together with mentoring programs throughout the state, it is working to support and enhance mentoring programs throughout the state.
"A mentor can do so many things to bring positive light to any child. Halloween, for example, a mentor may take the child out trick-or-treating. They may take them bowling one night or to a movie. Or they may just sit and talk with the child," Wiltfong said.
A few good characteristics that a mentor should have are being a good listener, patience and kindness, confidence, a positive environment and a sense of humor.
"It doesn't take any special talents to be a mentor, just an everyday hero who can spend time with a child," Wiltfong added.
Those interested in being a mentor can contact Wiltfong at 683-5464.