Some of the most powerful bonding experiences that Daniel McNeil, Grand Area Mentoring Program Director, has had with his childhood mentors have been over meals. There is something about eating together that brings people together, he says.
When McNeil applied for the Seeds to Start grant through the Moonflower Community Co-op, on behalf of Grand Area Mentoring, he had these moments in mind: His proposed use of the grant money would be to provide mentors and mentees got vouchers for Moonflower, so the pairs could learn, buy and enjoy snacks together.
Grand Area Mentoring received the grant in December. The mentoring program began in 2005, pairing adult volunteers with children seeking guidance. Mentors and mentees meet for one hour a week and form friendships. 22 currently paired mentors / mentees will benefit from the Moonflower grant, McNeil said.
“I think it will give [mentees] a new opportunity to shop in a place they might never have been before, ”said McNeil. “They are going to experience something new, their horizons are going to broaden and they are going to have a bonding experience with their mentors.”
When the program started it was based in the Grand County School District – mentors met their mentees there. But a few years ago, McNeil developed a new program: Once mentees have formed a friendship with their mentor and reached middle school, they can meet their mentors outside of school.
The purpose of the Moonflower Seeds to Start grant is to provide financial assistance to any local nonprofit or individual who will “cultivate holistic community well-being,” which can be interpreted in a variety of ways, said Maggie Keating, coordinator of Marketing and Outreach at Moonflower. .
“The mentor and mentees can use the grant as an experience to learn about so many different things in the co-op,” she said. “From local food and local farms to the environmental impact of our globalized food system, and why we try to focus so much on sourcing our food locally and fairly and sustainably. “
She and three other co-op employees were part of the grants committee this year and ultimately chose Grand Area Mentoring because they were inspired by the idea that the grant could be used to directly educate community members who don’t. might not have this opportunity otherwise.
Grand Area Mentoring is always looking to increase its number of adult mentors, McNeil said. Currently, the program has over 20 children on the waiting list. In 2020, the program had to take a hiatus due to complications with the COVID-19 pandemic. But towards the end of last year, the program started to grow slowly again: a new cohort of mentors started in September, and another cohort will start at the end of January 2022.
Adult volunteers go through a major screening and training process before they are matched, and it works: The national average for mentor-mentee program relationships is around six months, McNeil said, but Grand Area mentors Mentoring typically work with their mentees for at least three months. year.
“Many mentors find this volunteer opportunity extremely rewarding,” said McNeil. “There is a real need for more mentors. We would like to match some of these kids eager to have a mentor and eager to be guided with the kind and responsible adults we know in Moab.
Mentees run from Grades 1 to 12, with most new matches being done at the elementary school level – the perfect time for a child to enter the program is between Grades 2 and 5, said McNeil.
All adults interested in volunteering can download an application from the Grand Area Mentoring website (www.grandmentoring.org). The next mentor orientation will take place on Thursday, January 27.