Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It’s Raining Men!

Well, not really. But if it were, we’d hope to recruit a bunch of them to help in several of our programs.

This in no way diminishes the outstanding commitment of many men -- and women --who are already involved. It just means that more men are needed and welcome!

Why we want men:
At any given time our Volunteers in Protective Services (VIPS) program mentors 100 youth. Our current pool of mentors includes 66 women and 34 men, but we have 65 boys on our waiting list for mentors. Many have been referred to us because they need a male role model, and we want to match them with a male mentor.

In case there's any hesitation out there, I want to emphasize that it’s easy to be a mentor!
• We provide comprehensive training and screening,
• Our outstanding professional staff provides ongoing support and supervision to every mentor.
• Mentors pick from the kids on the waiting list the one they want to mentor, usually based on background, geographic location and interests – sports, music, outdoor activities, etc.
• Mentors meet with the youth they are mentoring at mutually agreeable times.
• We offer a variety of activities, such as holiday parties, trips to the Bronx zoo, and tickets to professional baseball, basketball and soccer games.

One mentor, writer Tim Harper, says he knows why more men don’t want to be a mentor. “I think they think it’s hard, or that they will fail.” But Harper found it easy and fun. He mentored a young boy for several years, doing fun things like teaching him how to ride a bike or taking him along on hikes with his own family.

Another fellow, the 11-year-old son of a friend, recently provided further insight. I was describing an ambitious home improvement project my husband was undertaking that I thought was too ambitious. Under his breath the boy commented, “You know us guys -- it’s hard for us to give up our pride.”

A couple of years ago I saw a great ad produced by the Ad Council. It showed a boy and a young man looking at a huge abstract painting. The boy asked “Do you know what it means?” The young man answered, “No.” And then a halo appeared over his head. It so perfectly illustrated how easy it is to be a mentor. Just be yourself!

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks information about volunteering, of the 63-million-plus adults who volunteered in 2009, 58% are women and 42% are men, so that fact that men are in short supply as volunteers is not unique. But we want to do everything we can to reverse this trend and make men as welcome as possible!

For information about being a mentor — or about volunteering in any of our programs, give us a call at 201-489-9454 or visit us online at http://www.bergenvolunteers.org/.

P.S. We need women too!

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