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FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 2007
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Friend 2 Friend needs your help

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com 340-2446

If you have just an hour a week to spare, you can be a Friend 2 Friend mentor.

The Volunteer Center of Morgan County is trying to beef up the number involved in this program, said executive director Mary K. Braddock.

Some of the mentors who take time out of their workday to meet with a child in elementary or middle schools in Decatur and Hartselle transferred to other locations. As a result, numbers were down to about 20 active mentors in late fall, she said. Now they have 35 mentors with five more being trained, but there are still children on the waiting list for men or women to spend an hour a week with them at school.

BP and Wachovia Bank allow their employees to spend a work hour volunteering, and Braddock would like to see more companies with this plan.

"Because it's school-based and follows the school calendar, it doesn't require a big time commitment, and you don't have to think of someplace to go," she said.

"I think all of us have had a mentor in our lives — my grandmother was my mentor and cheerleader and someone I could count on — and realize how important it is for a child to have someone he can talk to," Braddock said.

It's not too late to join for this school year, she said. You can schedule the few hours of training at your convenience, get started this year and then pick up in the fall.

Most students don't want to participate in this program by the time they get to high school, she said, but a lot of impact can be made before then. Adults serving as positive role models can help students learn how to solve problems and understand the value of education.

"There's a violence prevention aspect to this program, and children who have a caring adult in their lives are less likely to be involved with alcohol and drugs," Braddock said.

The meetings with students, which can take place in the guidance office, computer room, library or elsewhere in the school, get under way about a month after school starts and end with the school year. In the fall, you can be paired with the same student, or you can ask for a change at any time.

Some students come from single-parent homes where the student has to vie with siblings for the little time available from a working parent. Some move a lot and don't get to make friends, while others don't have much discipline in the home and may stay up late watching television, rather than concentrating on homework. The mentor may be able to talk about those and other concerns while regularly spending some time with the child.

This program gets funding from the Children's Trust Fund of Alabama, United Way of Morgan County and the cities of Decatur and Hartselle. To get information or sign up, contact Marsha Burchfield, Friend 2 Friend mentoring coordinator, or Braddock at the Volunteer Center, 355-8628.

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