Nonprofit celebrates 40 years of supporting youth
by Jessica Harper
For many children who face challenges at home, a mentor can become a crucial supporter, friend and adult role model. And this is precisely the work of Apple Valley nonprofit Kids ’n Kinship, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
“Our mission is to provide friends for children who need a positive role model,” said Jan Belmore, director of Kids ’n Kinship.
It was this positive influence that piqued one Eagan mom’s attention when looking for an outlet for her 9-year-old son, Diego.
“I like that it offers a positive relationship with an adult male, since my son has no father figure,” said Michelle, a single mother and full-time college student who asked that her last name remain anonymous.
But no mentor has been found for her son in the last two years, causing Diego to be among 44 children who are awaiting mentors through Kids ’n Kinship.
Diego said he is eager to be matched with a mentor to join in his favorite activities: video games and sports.
In addition to mentors, the organization is always in need of donations, which are tax-deductible, Belmore said.
“It takes everyone working together to support our programs,” she said.
The program, no longer affiliated with Community Action Council, serves children ages 5 to 16 in Apple Valley, Burnsville, Lakeville, Rosemount, Eagan and Farmington. Once a match is made after careful screening, volunteers spend one to four hours a week with the child.
It presently has 71 children who have been matched with mentors.
“Many stay in touch after the children are grown,” Belmore said. “It becomes a lifelong friendship for them.”
Belmore added that she hopes past mentors and mentees will contact Kids ’n Kinship to share their experiences and join in the celebration.
The organization started as an affiliate of the national Kids ’n Kinship when it was founded in 1972 by Richard “Dick” and Carol Frick.
Much has changed since then. The Fricks have since stepped down, and Dick died in 2002 of lung cancer.
The organization also outgrew its volunteer model, which was replaced by paid employees. Mentors continue to be volunteers, though.
Kids ’n Kinship’s anniversary is not the only celebration in mentoring this year. January is national mentoring month and Jan. 26 is national Thank Your Mentor Day.
For more information on Kids ’n Kinship, or to donate or volunteer, visit www.kidsnkinship.org or call (952) 892-6368.
Jessica Harper is at email@example.com and www.facebook.com/thisweeklive.