Friday, January 22, 1999

Mentor push coming next week

Local officials preview campaign

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A nationwide campaign will begin next week to encourage adults to serve as mentors to children.

        Save the Children, a Westport, Conn.-based organization that runs child health and education programs nationwide and in 40 countries, previewed a new mentoring plan Thursday in Cincinnati. The national campaign kicks off next week in Washington, D.C.

        Local organizations that provide care for children — many with long waiting lists for help — hope the campaign will at tract volunteers.

        Mentors are “a proven way to increase the chances that young people will stay in school and avoid risky behavior like alcohol and substance abuse,” said Catherine Milton, executive director of Save the Children's programs in the United States.

        The campaign, dubbed “Do Good. Mentor a Child,” includes a series of television and newspaper public service announcements sponsored by the Ad Council.

        Save the Children officials were in Cincinnati Thursday to recognize Focusing Our Resources to Empower (FORE) Youth, a collaboration with the Urban Appalachian Council and the West C Youth Center. The Lower Price Hill program provides self-esteem sessions, homework help and mentoring for area children and had an open house Thursday.

        While in Cincinnati, the group decided to offer local officials a preview of the campaign, said Georgia Bushman, Save the Children spokeswoman. The ads should begin nationwide next week and the campaign is expected to run at least through this year.

        Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati, which has more than 600 adult mentors, needs at least twice that number, executive director Kathleen List said. Her organization has about 500 children on a waiting list for a mentor.

        The children learn so much, said Karen Drifmeyer of Price Hill. Her two granddaughters, ages 7 and 4, take part in a mentoring program where they learn social skills. They also meet people reaching out to help others, a wonderful example to set for children, Ms. Drifmeyer said.

        While Patti Bellamo started mentoring a year ago to help children, it has brought an enrichment to her own life. The 38-year-old Price Hill woman helps children with their school work, listens to their problems and provides a big hug every chance she can get.

        “It is for the children, but it also makes me feel good,” Ms. Bellamo said. And when a child opens up to her, she knows her efforts are making a difference.


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