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Celebrating mentors who guide, nurture along the way

This January marks the eleventh anniversary of National Mentoring Month, and today, Jan. 26, has been nationally proclaimed "Thank a Mentor Day."

Mentoring programs throughout the state are celebrating the difference mentors make in the lives of young people. Across the country, 3 million youth have mentors in their lives to guide and nurture them along on their paths to adulthood.

The Perham area is no exception. More than 45 kids are currently matched up with an adult mentor through Kinship of the Perham area.

Kinship is a program that serves at-risk youth in the area through mentoring and group activities. Its mission is to improve children's lives by establishing quality relationships between children and caring volunteers for the purpose of promoting stability, support, friendship and community.

Now 16 years old, the local program not only matches up mentors to kids in need, it's also involved in enrichment programs such as Reading Buddies, Tot-Time, Stories on the Go, Girls Are Powerful (GAP) and Boys R Always Gifted (BRAG).

In addition, Kinship is an active participant in community-wide charity efforts related to children, such as Stuff the Bus and Kollecting for Kids.

There are also local residents volunteering as Foster Grandparents through the Central Minnesota Foster Grandparent Program.

These senior volunteers spend time in schools, Head Starts and other local non-profits, providing meaningful, supportive relationships to children with special needs. They become role models for the students they mentor, and students often develop practical skills and a higher sense of self-worth.

Foster grandparents serving in Perham and New York Mills include Kathryn Albin, Orville Albin, LaVonne Apland, Patricia Jokela, Mary Lee Maki, Lorraine Olsen and June Stafki.  

The Foster Grandparent program is part of a greater senior volunteer program called Senior Corps, and is sponsored by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud. For more information or to volunteer, contact Becky Martinson at or 218-639-9314.

Created in 2002 by the Harvard School of Public Health and MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, National Mentoring Month was created to focus national attention on the need for mentors, as well as to get people and organizations working together to increase the number of mentors across the country.

About 40 children are currently waiting for mentors in the Perham area, according to Kinship. Mentors are asked to commit at least four hours per month for one year to a child who needs a role model.

Kinship mentors may take kids fishing, swimming, to a movie or out to a community event. They may stay in and play games, bake cookies, or any number of activities, all the while providing support, structure and supervision to a child in need. Kinship also offers regular group activities, which kids and their mentors are always welcome to participate in.

Anyone interested in becoming a mentor, or in volunteering for Kinship in any other way, may call Jill Shipman, director of the Perham Kinship, at 346-7102 or

Another way to get involved, without volunteering, is to participate in Kinship's many fundraising events throughout the year. Coming up next is the 6th Annual Kinship Bunco Party, starting at 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 27 at the Cactus. Tickets are $15 and are available at American Family Insurance or by calling Kinship. Cash prizes will be available.

The annual Freez'n For a Reason polar plunge is also coming up, on Feb. 11 at Zorbaz in Perham. Limited tickets are available at the Perham Chamber, Bremer Bank, United Community Bank, or by calling Kinship.