By Susan Ryan
Walter Caithness signed up to become a mentor with the Adults Mentoring Children program after returning home one day from the Dunedin Community Center with a brochure. He had never mentored before and never had a mentor. But he understood the importance of the concept. There were a lot of variables involved in making the commitment, so the decision took some time, but three years of mentoring with Jake has paid off. “We really learn from each other” he says. “Recently he had to teach me how to send text messages on my cell phone!” Walter’s not too skilled with the new generation’s technology. “We have fun times together. Mentoring provides a mutual benefit.”
The two have much in common that reaches across generations. Time is divided between stay-at-home activities like playing chess, arts and crafts, watching sports on television and being on the go — to museums, exhibits of vintage airplanes and car shows, flea markets and outdoor festivals. Jake plays soccer and football, and Walt goes to games with him.
Walter has his own philosophy of mentoring which includes fun activity plus the serious imparting of good values for life. This includes education and career goals. “Sports and games have their place, but I want to be sure Jake knows what his options will be.” Walt was downsized from his job up north and came to Florida some years ago. He was able because of his education and experience to re-structure his career until retirement. So he knows how to prepare for life’s challenges. “I’ve mentored Jake since he was 10, so now he’s a teenager and the emphasis changes.” Walter sees mentoring as a great volunteer opportunity that requires no expense; even if you’re a retiree on a fixed income you have much to offer.
It’s not about the material things, Adults Mentoring Children cautions; it’s about the individual attention for a child. It’s the relationship and the experiences. The agency offers tickets from time to time for museums, movies, children’s theatre productions and baseball games generously donated from the community. There are also sponsored activities such as bowling, skating and swimming parties at no cost. An annual picnic an recognition luncheon brings mentors together as well as a support group for sharing the experience of mentoring. Some volunteers mentor for a year, others much longer.
Walter and the Gulf Coast Community Care program encourage you to become a mentor to a child and enrich both your lives. Please call Beverly Craft, Team Leader, at (727) 479-1841 for more information or to apply. The program is funded by The Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County. All volunteers must pass a background check and attend an orientation and training. Share a great experience. Become a mentor!