The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation is pleased to announce its Community Champions for the first quarter of FY17. These employees were nominated by their colleagues and are being recognized for their work with local non-profit organizations, where they donate their time and energy to improve quality of life for their neighbors. The Champions’ chosen nonprofits will receive a $500 grant from The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation.
Direct Support Professional, REM Iowa
Camp Quality Heartland in Council Bluffs, Iowa, holds a special place in Jennifer Leafty’s heart. The mission of Camp Quality is to establish community-based camping experiences and ongoing support programs for children with cancer and their families. Jennifer began her involvement at the camp at age six when her younger sister was diagnosed with cancer. She went to Camp Quality for the next 12 years as a camper with her siblings until she graduated and returned as a Camp Quality Companion.
A one-on-one companion is assigned to every child who registers for summer camp. Jennifer volunteers one week each year to be a companion for a camper. The caring and supportive relationship between the pair begins at camp, and continues to be fostered throughout the year with reunions such as a trip this fall to a pumpkin patch. Jennifer and her camper developed such a strong friendship that the camper asked to be matched up year after year until she graduated this past summer.
The organization’s vision is that all children with cancer and their families find joy and hope through shared experiences and an ongoing support system. Camp activities include archery, rock wall climbing, canoeing, and even hot air balloon rides.
“Jennifer enjoys spending time with the children and giving them the opportunity to forget about their illness for a while and just be kids,” said Renae Dingman, Program Director at REM Iowa. “The community is a better place because Jennifer shows these children that they are cared about and gives them a few happy memories to help get them through some of the tough times.”
“Camp is a family affair for us,” said Jennifer. “My mom and my siblings are companions or staff members as well. Volunteering a week of my summer does not feel like work to me, I have so much fun going back to summer camp each year as a companion.”
To learn more about Camp Quality Heartland, please visit their website at http://www.campqualityusa.org/htl/.
Recertification Coordinator, Missouri MENTOR
Carla Maxwell began volunteering at Jordan’s Place covering as many shifts as she could, to help keep the organization’s doors open. She was passionate about it from the start because her friend founded Jordan’s Place following the death of her 17 year old son, Jordan, to a heroin overdose. Jordan’s Place offers a community gathering facility directed at providing positive alternative activities for area youth. Their mission is to end substance abuse, bullying, depression, stress/anxiety, suicide, violence, teen pregnancy and the many other challenges facing youth today. Jordan’s Place is a community supported facility, filled with billiards, ping pong, foosball, snack bar, lounge, study area, and is a safe place for youth to socialize in a supervised environment.
“Carla ensures that the youth have safe and fun events to look forward to such as camping trips, dances and spa nights,” said Becky Guempel, Recertification Coordinator, Missouri MENTOR. “She truly wants to make a difference in the lives of youth.”
Carla gives her time by fundraising, serving on the Board of Directors, planning activities and supervising regular afterschool shifts. Jordan’s Place is that safe place that youth need when they feel like they don’t belong anywhere else. About 30 students visit Jordan’s Place each day afterschool and over 100 are in attendance when events are held.
“Jordan’s Place gives kids an alternative, somewhere safe to be, and people who care about them,” said Carla. “I wish everyone had a Jordan’s Place because our community has seen too many young lives lost.”
To learn more about Jordan’s Place, please visit their website at http://jordansplace-mo.org/.
Occupational Therapist, NeuroRestorative North Carolina
Susan White has volunteered at Families Moving Forward in Durham, North Carolina for the past ten years. The non-profit offers a temporary home to families with children in the crisis of homelessness. The program works to create a path to stability and self-sufficiency through personalized services and ongoing community support. Their vision is that with this model family homelessness in Durham will end by 2020.
Susan originally got involved when the organization was a mobile model and “rotated” to 12 churches for their shelter. During this time Susan assisted with organizing meals, overnight hosts, and transportation to transform her church into a home for 3-4 families. It took a total of 60 volunteers per week to make this a successful temporary home.
The organization opened in a new stationary location this past July which can host up to 21 families. Families Moving Forward partners with community agencies to provide supportive services such as mental health and substance abuse counseling/treatment are provided. Heads of household work to attain personal and professional goals related to obtaining full time employment, developing financial literacy and transitioning into permanent affordable housing.
While the organization’s location has changed, Susan’s passion and dedication to volunteering has not. She continues to form relationships with many of the individuals and provides occupational therapy, free of charge, to those in need. “I feel it is important to give back to the community,” said Susan. “I see the positive impact the organization has on families when some of them come back to volunteer alongside me once they get back on their feet.”
“Susan is a natural caretaker,” said Jerry Villemain, State Director, NeuroRestorative North Carolina. “She is very compassionate and her empathy leads her to go beyond usual expectations. She cares about her community and she cares about all those in it, particularly those less fortunate trying to overcome barriers.”
Visit http://familiesmovingforwardnc.org/ for more information on Families Moving Forward.
About The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation
The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation is committed to transforming the delivery of human services through the generation of new ideas and best practices. We seek to advance an agenda based on quality, accountability and respect for the individual. The focus of our giving is on organizations that take a fresh look—through research, innovative thinking, direct care and programming—at how people with disabilities and youth and families facing emotional, behavioral and other challenges are cared for in our society. The Foundation also works to expand opportunity for the people we serve through employment and educational support.