Just One Lunch Hour a Week Can Make a Difference
Spotlight on MetroMentors’ Volunteer John Perry
When John Perry originally set out to volunteer with the MetroMentors youth mentoring program, he thought he could help make a difference by tutoring kids. The impact John has had over his five years in the program has gone far beyond homework help. “You can see it in the eyes of a child, when he comes in with a big smile, has social skills and is doing well in school.”
MetroMentors offers professionally supported, one-to-one mentoring relationships between caring adults and elementary or middle school children. The program offers positive adult role models to improve a child’s self-esteem, social skills, academic achievement and positive life choices.
According to John, a retired village administrator and father of two, now-grown sons, “MetroMentors offers kids the opportunity to see themselves and their future in a positive way. During my career in public service (and as a parent), I was regularly reminded of the importance of youth having opportunities to grow and develop into contributing community members. “
John spends one hour a week at Edgewood Elementary School in Woodridge with his mentee who just turned 12. The child’s mother works hard and felt her son could benefit from the extra support of a male mentor in his life. Each week, John and his mentee get together at the school to eat lunch, play games, work on homework, or just talk. “We talk about whatever,” John said.
He and his mentee have been matched for three years. “The experience has been rewarding for me,” said John. “I look forward to the time that I spend each week with my mentee. The experience has really driven home the importance of having a relationship in one’s life that is steady and caring.”
John’s contact with Metropolitan Family Services dates back to the 70s, when he was Village Administrator of Park Forest and Metropolitan provided human services there. Then, in the early 90s as Village Administrator of Woodridge, John reconnected with Metropolitan DuPage and helped start the Community Resource Center in Woodridge to provide after school activities for children.
John has been a mentor to four teens since he began volunteering with the program five years ago. Because there always is a need for more mentors—especially male mentors—at times John has had more than one mentee. He encourages other adults to get involved in MetroMentors: “If every adult could help one child, we could make a difference for children growing up today.”
Click here to volunteer with MetroMentors.
Members of the Metropolitan Family Services DuPage Associate Board met this morning at a breakfast hosted by the Board Development Committee. Attendees heard the latest updates on the programs and services offered at the DuPage Center.
Image (l to r): Bob Hutchinson; John Stitzell, Chuck McKenna, Patrick Whiteside, Dan Schuchardt, Howard Goldstein, Matthew Allgood, Sandy Allison and Paul Pyrcik, Jr.
The Cat in the Hat recently paid a visit to our DuPage Head Start students thanks to the volunteers of Pi Beta Phi. As part of their “Day of Service in honor of Dr. Seuss,” sorority volunteers read, enjoyed crafts and donated books for each student to bring home!
“Please pass on our thanks to the wonderful Head Start classroom teachers we met at the Cat in the Hat event. Their warm welcome was so appreciated and felt instantly upon entering the room. The Head Start students in each of the classrooms were respectful and attentive to us. The Head Start teachers have created a safe and fun learning environment. It was a privilege to have been a part of it!” said Pi Beta Phi sorority volunteers.
Thanks for your kindness and volunteerism Pi Beta Phi!! We enjoyed having you at DuPage Head Start!
Youth from an array of programs at Metropolitan Family Services DuPage are learning about a variety of careers available to them as they prepare to enter the working world. On July 15th and 23rd, two groups of teens participated in Camp Old Navy – a job-shadowing experience at the Old Navy store located in Downers Grove.
Camp Old Navy gives youth the chance to go behind the scenes and see what it takes to operate a business. They spend hours rotating through different jobs and tasks, gaining hands-on experience setting up visual displays, price-tagging garments, processing shipments, and greeting customers. Old Navy employees expand on this experience by spending time with participants, talking about their jobs and answering questions.
Marsha Ndoko of the MetroMentors Program has coordinated the partnership between Metropolitan and Old Navy for the past four years. The program provides invaluable, hands-on experience in the retail environment. Youth come away with a better understanding of important job skills such as customer service and punctuality.
Camp Old Navy is part of a multi-year/multi-million dollar commitment sponsored by Gap Inc. Metropolitan is privileged to be part of this wonderful program that serves DuPage County youth.
Chris Coyle, a mentor with Metropolitan Family Services MetroMentors program gives insight on his experience in the feature below. Click here if you are interested in becoming a MetroMentor.
How did you get involved in the MetroMentors Program?
A friend from church told him about the MetroMentors Program. I live within 7 miles of the area I mentor in and wanted to help the community. My daughter is about the same age as the student I mentor and it is another inside look at what’s going on in their generation. It’s interesting to see that some things are universal and others are not, when my family only lives a few miles away from this area.
What do you think are the most important characteristics to have as a mentor?
Reliability & consistency. There is such an excitement in the students as they walk in & hope to see their mentor. For some of these kids, whatever their home life, knowing that there is someone who comes all the way to see just them, for only an hour a week gives them a sense of value and the attention they need. A mentor is someone who is just there for them – it makes a difference to that one kid.
Explain your mentoring experience.
I have been a mentor with MetroMentors for about a year and a half. My mentee is in the seventh grade. We meet after school with our MetroMentors group and participate in a variety of activities from working on homework, computers, crafts, sports, group games or having one-on-one time discussions focused on what my mentee would like to talk about; his feelings, home/school life, issues, etc. I have noticed my mentee progress over the time we have spent with one another as he is now much more open and real. He has learned that one does not always have to be competitive and to appreciate someone else doing something good by celebrating another’s accomplishment.
How is MetroMentors special/unique?
Many people think of mentoring as a more of some thing that is restricted to an outcome or a performance based thing. MetroMentors has a less defined agenda & is more about listening and interacting to give kids their hour to shine & spend quality time spent with an adult.
Why should others get involved in MetroMentors?
MetroMentors is really fun and rewarding! Mentoring isn’t a time-consuming activity and you learn things from the students as well as them learning from you. The students are very appreciative as well as the schools and parents. In some way you are making a difference in someone’s life.
Make a World of Difference – Become a MentorMentor
Congratulations to several Metropolitan Family Services DuPage volunteers who were among those recognized for their outstanding volunteer service at the 11th Annual West Suburban Philanthropic Network luncheon on Wednesday, May 22nd at Meson Sabika in Naperville. MFS DuPage Board member Paul Pyrcik and Carl Neumann, MFS DuPage Associate Board Member were recognized for their assistance with relationship building on behalf of Metropolitan. Nancy Bruce, Grace Tampa and Pat Alstrin were recognized for their customer service and commitment to Treasure House and to the Wheaton and Glen Ellyn Leagues. Cathy Johnston and Lynne Staley were honored for their dedicated service to older adults in the Senior In-Home Caregivers program; and Jim Carter for his service to the MetroMentors program that works with young pre-teen and teenage youth.
Photo Credit: LeVern Danley
A Featured Volunteer with In-Home Senior Respite in DuPage County
Cathy has been a volunteer with Metropolitan’s In-Home Senior Respite since 2008. Cathy is one of our go-to volunteers who has helped many, many families. View our interview with this special volunteer highlighted during Volunteer Week below. Thank you Cathy!!
How did you begin volunteering with Metropolitan?
A friend, no longer with respite service, had casually asked me if I had ever considered volunteering for In-Home Senior Respite. First she had to explain what it was, “Three hours of relief each week for the care giver of a senior…”. After giving her request some thought, I contacted her and the ball was rolling. My interview was scheduled, vetting completed, began training and then assigned to a family. In-Home Senior Respite has been one of the most rewarding experiences to me, and I am pleased to be of service.
What do you do as an In-Home Senior Respite Volunteer?
My particular job is to cover for other respite volunteers who may become ill, as you know we do not attend to our clients if we are sick with a cold, flu or other contagious illness, and clients too should cancel appointments if they have such illnesses. My coverage can also take place when a regularly assigned volunteer goes on vacation or is unable (for many reason) to make the regularly scheduled appointment. I am also assigned to a new client until a permanent volunteer is located and suitable to the family to be served.
Why do you volunteer?
- The sharing of knowledge of days gone by
- Giving care givers a much needed break
- Witnessing the joy elders relate to in their daily life
- Appreciating the foundations laid by those whom I currently serve
- Observing the devotion and love that our care givers show our senior clients, is most rewarding.
In-Home Senior Respite is a hidden resource within our communities. Our service enables clients to keep loved ones in their home and in familiar surroundings, while they tend to the seniors every need. This leaves little time for the clients own needs, three hours is brief but can offer a much appreciated rest.
How has volunteering impacted you?
I have served fifteen families in Du Page County, in my close to five years of service. Several of these families, (I have found through our conversations) knew many of my Great Aunts and Uncles, the stories my clients share with me are most delightful. They connect me to my very own past.
Our clients backgrounds are from many different belief systems, ethnicities and careers, it is awesome to hear the adventures they have lived through and the struggles of life they look so fondly upon. One can see how our world has changed and developed by the foundations they have laid for us.
Seniors have always been inspiring to me, the vast knowledge they hold and the experiences they lived are a part of history. Having the opportunity to share in their life story is to me a great honor.
It is an honor to serve those who have come before me and I hold them as true treasures. Many of our clients and care givers have become an extension of our very own families. On occasion we lose them and it feels as if we have lost one of our own family members. What they impart is special and most memorable, and I would not want to have missed the opportunity of having met or serving them.
To learn about Metropolitan’s In-Home Senior Respite volunteer opportunities, click here.
DuPage Head Start celebrated Dr Seuss’ birthday earlier this month with members of the alumnae chapter of Pi Beta Phi. This interactive literacy event included story time with the children, playing games and decorating a book plate. Pi Beta Phi gave each child a Dr. Seuss book where they inserted their newly decorated book plates. All 68 Head Start children were given books! One child asked when he should return the book. The sorority members answered, “That’s your book to take home and keep!” The child asked, “Forever and ever?” The Pi Beta Phi members were visibly touched as they answered, “Yes, you can keep the book forever and ever.”
Thank you, Pi Beta Phi!