By Mike Hazlip–
Single Mom Strong, which is headquartered in Citrus Heights, this year is pairing volunteer men with children of single mothers in a program that is re-starting after being on hold during the pandemic.
The Men’s Mentorship program is restarting after several years, and Founder Tara Taylor said more mentors are still needed. The organization is holding their Kickball Kick-Off this month as a way to introduce mentors to children in the program. Taylor said there are six men volunteering so far, but she’d like to see more.
“I’m really happy to have finally gathered enough mentors to restart the program because it was something really sought after before the pandemic hit,” Taylor said. “I think it is something that has so much potential, based on the experiences of the children that have participated so far.”
Taylor said she’d like to see about 10 men volunteer for the 20 children currently seeking a mentor, with the goal being to create “a healthy relationship with a male figure,” according to the program’s description. The men will participate in games and small group activities with a preschool teacher present before being assigned to a child. She said relationships tend to form naturally.
“We are kind of watching for where that natural gravitation is going,” Taylor said.
Mentors are asked to volunteer for an initial commitment of two hours once a month, but families are free to arrange more time outside of the program.
In past programs, Taylor said she saw firsthand the positive impact mentors can have in the lives of children.
“In years past, there was definitely a difference in confidence, connectedness, even self-esteem,” Taylor said. “You see more shy kids kind of getting a little more comfortable feeling the love of another person. I think in some of our boys, but in girls as well, experiencing some of those things that are typically male interest.”
Mentors pick a month to create an activity based on their interests, something Taylor said helps foster relationships with children. Past activities have included building a birdhouse and a boot camp.
Volunteers in the program come from a variety of backgrounds, with ages ranging from 20 to 60 years old. Diversity is also an important characteristic for mentors that Taylor said helps children form meaningful relationships, but the most important quality, she says, is a passion for the mission of Single Mom Strong.
“I think of the variety of backgrounds and experiences and socio-economics, all of that representation allows a child to feel seen and to be able to really connect with the mentors,” she said. “I just love seeing diversity amongst the mentors as well.”
One of those mentors is Jason McAlister who is joining the program for the first time. McAlister told The Sentinel he discovered Single Mom Strong through a leadership program through his employer, SMUD. When he learned that the organization was struggling to get volunteers, McAlister decided to step in and help.
“I just thought it would be great,” McAlister said, after hearing the story about the nonprofit and the struggle with getting volunteers for the men’s mentoring program.
McAlister said both of his daughters are off to college, leaving him time to be a positive role-model for children at Single Mom Strong.
While he has yet to meet the other volunteers or children in the program McAlister says he is looking forward to the start of the program.
I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I really love the program that Tara’s put together, and I just want to give back.”
For Taylor, who has personally experienced life as a single mother, she hopes the volunteers in the mentorship program will provide other families with some positive male influence.
“While you can’t completely counteract the abandonment that a child feels, you can provide other examples of love and other examples of positive male influence,” Taylor said. “So that’s the premise behind the men’s mentoring team is really to just show these children that there are men who will consistently show up for them and maybe reverse some of that feeling of abandonment.”
Single Mom Strong is located at 7525 Auburn Blvd, Suite 5, and offers preschool, day care, camps and other programs. More information can be found online at www.singlemomstrong.org.
By Mike Hazlip--
Single Mom Strong, which is headquartered in Citrus Heights, this year is pairing volunteer men with children of single mothers in a program that is re-starting after being on hold during the pandemic...
Thanks for reading The Sentinel. You are either trying to access subscribers-only content or you have reached your limit of 4 free articles per 30 days. Click here to sign in or subscribe.