Thoburn Residents Make a Difference
“Last summer, my foster child would come to Wesbury and spend the day with residents at the Clubhouse,” says Thoburn Village Life Enrichment Coordinator, Greg Brink. “He had social problems, but after spending time, and talking with residents about many topics and their life experiences they built strong and trusting relationships. Since that time, he has become more engaged with people outside of Wesbury and is now working in the greater community; he really is a different person.” The transformation Greg’s foster son experienced inspired our residents to want to do more. What if they could help others? What if they could be a part of making a difference for more kids in need? Greg and the Crawford County Juvenile Probation Office (JPO) began to explore those ideas and this past summer their new pilot program called, “Mealtime with Mentors,” got wings.
Designed to be an intergenerational mentoring program for youth currently in the juvenile probation system and seniors living at Wesbury or participating in the Wesbury Volunteer Program, this is a collaborative effort between the Crawford County Juvenile Probation Office (JPO) and Wesbury. “Mealtime with Mentors” is intended to be an incentive program through JPO for troubled youth.
Before they started, each mentor received a minimum six hours of training covering program guidelines, expectations, adverse childhood experiences, and relationship and communication skills.
The success of “Mealtime with Mentors” is based on evaluations to determine the effectiveness of the program. Program goals are measured by both pre-and post-testing administered to the youths. The goals include: experiencing a relationship with a non-parent adult, effectively adapting and coping with stress, increasing self-esteem, increasing civic engagement, and understanding and implementing appropriate social behaviors and appropriate boundaries.
During the six-month program, four youth mentees and four senior mentors met for one hour and forty-five minutes once per week. Held at Wesbury’s Thoburn Village Clubhouse; they came together to prepare, cook, share a meal, and then, clean up after the meal. This was followed by an open block of time, which allowed for participation in a meaningful activity together. Sadly, sitting down to a meal and interacting with family hasn’t been the norm for many of the kids.
“My mentee told me the highlight of her week was to come to prepare our meal and spend time together,” says Wesbury resident and mentor, Sandy Cupper. “I had no idea what to expect in the program, but I feel the experience was a benefit to both of us. She later said we were like family, which was nice to hear because many of these kids do not have positive relationships in their lives.”
“My mentee was very nervous, upset, and quiet. I had to be just one-on-one for quite a while. After sharing meals and games, he was able to face the others and all the “noise,” notes Anne Weiss, Wesbury resident and mentor. “Towards the program’s end, he began to blossom and the boundaries were eased. This was a young man who didn’t even want to be touched when this program started, and by the end, was asking for hugs from me and other participants. It was as though everyone became like a sharing and caring family.”