Talbot Mentors Free Infosessions

Summer vacation is just around the corner. There are many school age children who spend summer days at home while a parent, grandparent or guardian works. What better way is there to weave a legacy of caring than by spending time with a child?

Come and find out about mentoring a school age child at our free Infosession presented by Talbot Mentor Executive Director Gerson Martinez. We have an immediate need of mentors for students on our wait list who are identified by Talbot County School personnel and who would benefit from additional adult attention in their lives. Current mentors will be on hand to answer questions about mentoring and its many benefits. Be a mentor, be a friend.

Mark your calendar to attend the next Infosession on 2nd Wednesday of each month, 4:30-5:15 pm at Talbot Mentors office (off Aurora St.), 108 Maryland Ave. Suite #102, Easton or contact us at: (410) 770-5999 or talbotmentors.org.

Talbot Mentors Free Infosession January 9th

New Year’s resolutions… did yours include a vow to volunteer? January is National Mentoring Month, a time to celebrate the positive impact mentoring has on children. Come and find out about mentoring a school age child at our free Infosession presented by Talbot Mentor Executive Director Gerson Martinez. We have an immediate need for mentors for students on our waitlist. Current mentors will be on hand to answer questions about mentoring and its many benefits. Be a mentor, be a friend.

Mark your calendar to attend the next Infosession on Wednesday, January 9th, 4:30-5:15 pm at Talbot Mentors office (off Aurora St.), 108 Maryland Ave. Suite #102, Easton; or contact us at: (410) 770-5999 or talbotmentors.org

Talbot Mentors Free Infosession September 12

September.  The weather turns cooler, many activities restart, and school is in session.  Do you recall the new school year expectations bolstered by new shoes, a full box of crayons, and your nametag on a clean desk?  At Talbot Mentors we strive to create positive life experiences and memories for school children.  As school starts generous donors, local merchants, and mentors help us provide shopping trips for children to select basic school supplies to begin the next grade.

Throughout Talbot County, guidance counselors will identify students who would benefit from an adult mentor.  The process can include a referral to Talbot Mentors to match pre-screened and trained mentors with the right child.  Superintendent Kelly Griffin, a Talbot Board member, states that 400 children in the Talbot County Schools could benefit from an adult mentor.  Sadly, there is a shortage of adult volunteers.

As summer turns to fall, do memories of an adult who made a positive impact on you come to mind?

Could you be that person to provide a positive role model for a local child?  Are you willing to spend an hour or two a week with a child who would benefit from some extra adult attention?  Do you have a hobby or an activity that you could share with a child?  Do you like to laugh at being silly, smile when a new skill is learned, or just have a young person by your side for company?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, come and find out about mentoring at our free Infosession presented by Talbot Mentor Executive Director Gerson Martinez.  Current mentors will also be on hand to answer questions about mentoring and its many benefits. Be a mentor, be a friend.

Mark your calendar to attend the next Infosession on September 12th from 4:30-5:15 pm at Eastern Shore Conservation Center located at 114 S. WASHINGTON ST, EASTON or contact us at (410) 770-5999

Science Camp a Huge Hit for Talbot Mentor

This summer, Talbot Mentors (TM) held a successful Science Camp program. Run by Paul Popick, who has over 40 years of engineering experience, this project gave campers an opportunity to spend a week exploring the world of science. This is the third year for the Science Camp and, according to Popick, the most successful.“We had scientists, not teachers,” he emphasized, “doing experiments and talking about their perspective on how it can be used in industry or research.” The volunteers included Lou Cotispodi, Vince Kelly, Bill Bailey, Paul Gilmore, and Joan Muzzillo.

The morning part of the one-week camp was set up to give middle schoolers an opportunity to conduct scientist-led hands-on-experiments which involved robotics, physics, chemistry, and biology. In the afternoon, using scientific methods, they worked on their chosen individual projects(most campers selected the building and programming of a robot). By that Friday, prepared charts and the completed projects were presented to family and friends during the Science Fair. A satisfaction survey conducted after the program ended showed that 100% of the kids gave the science camp a glowing review in quality and that 100% of the scientist volunteers agreed that it was a valuable volunteering opportunity for them.

This is not surprising for Popick who realized when he was growing up that knowledge in math and science was life-changing in that it was a way of securing his future. He hoped to impart the same message to children, especially since “there is a shortage of scientists in this country, as well as a basic literacy in math,”he said. Hearing that the smartest kids in school were being tutored, he set out to teach those who couldn’t afford it and who could benefit from his enthusiasm and commitment to give back to his community. When he met Natalie Costanzo, former Executive Director of Talbot Mentors, she eagerly took him up on his offer and helped to arrange a partnership with the Y for the tutoring. While working with the kids, Popick got inspired to conduct a science fair, and the original one-day presentation, three years ago, evolved into one week.

As for the future, Popick would like to expand the program, bringing it into the schools and other groups. “It’s a great opportunity that I would be happy to help set up.” He’s pleased with the contributions he and others have been able to make and says it’s been rewarding to him in other ways. “I try to make it experiential, not like a regular classroom, and the kids get interested and don’t realize they’re learning something. But I learned lots of stuff too. I also had to build the robot beforehand and had to figure out how to program it and then create the course. I loved doing the other projects, as well.”

Gerson Martinez, Executive Director of TM,is also thrilled with the results: “We are fortunate to be a part of a community with so many talented and generous professionals like the scientists who volunteered their time with us this summer. The program was so successful that we are now exploring additional programming throughout the school year to engage new volunteers with skills to offer and to strengthen mentoring relationships.”

If you have a special talent, or are a culinary professional, creative artist, tutor, translator, etc. and can share your expertise with our mentors and mentees, or if you’d like to explore other volunteer opportunities, please contact Gerson Martinez at gerson@talbotmentors.org or by phone at 410-770-5999.

Talbot Mentors: Improving the Long, Hot Summer

School ends and gleeful students tumble out of school.  After a few days, however, “I’m bored”  becomes a common refrain.  We said it ourselves when we were kids.  Some of us might remember being home alone while the adult(s) in the family were at work.

There are 17 children of all ages in Talbot County who are on the waiting list to be matched with an adult mentor. Many are home most days in the summer while adults work.  Some live with elderly grandparents struggling to raise them, and still others could just use a little extra adult TLC in their lives.

What a great way to relive the fun parts of childhood while giving back to a child!  You won’t say, “I’m bored.” The rewards are endless…smiles, laughter, photos, new experiences, memories, fun!

To find out about mentoring, attend one of the Talbot Mentors Infosessions.  The next  sessions are: July 11 and September 12 @ 4:30 at Eastern Shore Conservation Center, 114 S. Washington St., Easton.

For more information: https://talbotmentors.org/ or (410) 770-5999.

Providing Hope One Child At A Time

Linda Featherman wanted to enriched a child’s life, to expose them to unknown possibilities and to create hope. Featherman grew up in Oxford, married, raised her family, became a professional interior designer and retired to her hometown. She felt the call to make a difference in the life of a child. She turned to Talbot Mentors whose mission is to help young people in-need or at-risk prepare for success in their personal and professional lives.

In the summer of 2014, Featherman was matched with nine-year-old Alexys. Almost four years later, they’re still together. More than ever, Featherman wants Alexys to “see that there is more to life outside of her own surroundings – to create possibilities and dreams for the future.”  She knows, through her personal experience as a parent, that kids crave parenting and discipline.  “I give her my love in a constant and guiding way.” Featherman has shown Alexys “consistency, encouragement, support, and approval”.

While the typical time commitment of mentors is a couple of hours a week, it is flexible and subject to the relationship and commitments of both mentor and mentee. In Featherman and Alexys’ case, they enjoy being with each other more than that.  “We volunteer weekly at St. Vincent de Paul Charity Thrift Store where Alexys is a cashier.  Through discipline and training she got very good at it! We always have a good time and we make it fun.” In Linda’s mind she hopes kids come to know that many others can have far greater needs.  Alexys also volunteers alongside Featherman at church events.

This past summer, Alexys was given an opportunity for a two-week Pennsylvania camp experience through the Talbot Mentors camp program and a partial scholarship from the camp itself.  Out of her comfort zone and nervous about leaving her mom and siblings, Alexys at first didn’t want to go. However, with the support of her family and Featherman, Alexys went and had a deeply rewarding experience and the hope for returning this summer. Featherman and Alexys see themselves together “for the long haul as a member of my family”.

Talbot Mentors needs you. You can help in many ways:

Become a mentor and change the life of a child.

Donate and help achieve the goal of offering every mentee a camp experience.

Volunteer to teach the children your special talent or hobby.

To learn about Talbot Mentors please attend the monthly information sessions held every second Wednesday, or visit http://talbotmentors.org/, or call 410-770-5999.

Spills and Thrills: Talbot Mentors—and Mentees—on Ice

When asked what he likes about ice skating, ten-year-old Jacob doesn’t miss a beat. “That I glide,” he says as he skates off to join his buddies on the ice. How about  seven-year-old Aiyonna? “If I fall down, I can get up quickly,” she shares. Between glides, spills come with the territory as just about everyone is finding out. As John says to his mentee, ten-year-old Xavion, “See that? The little girl in the pink sweater who was skating so well. . . all of a sudden—bam, and she’s down.  Even experienced skaters hit the ice.” It’s been 55 years since mentor John has been on the ice. Tonight, the Talbot Mentors goal of expanding horizons is playing out for mentors as well as mentees. A good time is being had by all.

Group photo of mentors, mentees and TM staff

Whenever Talbot Mentors sponsors a special event for mentors and mentees, energy runs high. Lifted spirits are contagious when the bottom line is FUN! At the ice skating party at the  Talbot County Community Center, a group of three dozen mentors and mentees has gathered to lace up skates and take to the ice.

Bre’Asia’s takeaway? “I like it. It’s fun. I want to do it again!” Lori, Bre’Asia’s mentor, explains that the 11-year-old had expressed some concern about getting out on the ice. It would be her first time. “I think having her sister come along helped with her confidence,” Lori says. “Plus Bre’Asia knows so many of the kids here through Talbot Mentors. I was amazed at how quickly she learned and was able to skate by herself.”

And what about mentor Lori, who says she wasn’t sure she’d even “lace up”? “I’m glad I was able to make it around the rink a few times,” she says. “It was exhilarating to be surrounded by so many people smiling and laughing—and it was a good way to get some exercise.: All in all,” she says, “it’s a good, healthy way to spend time together.”

Mentors (left to right) Sheila Buckmaster, John Schreiner, Lori Yates

There they go, around the rink. A pack of three Talbot Mentors boys in an impromptu race. A mentor and her mentee gliding together. A pair of girls holding hands. Just off the ice, a group of skaters dig into some French fries. A few feet from the kids, Talbot Mentors Executive Director Gerson Martinez points his camera toward the ice and clicks away as familiar faces come into view.

“I’m thrilled that so many of our mentors took advantage of this great opportunity to spend valuable time with their mentees. With the support of community partners like the Talbot County Community Center, we’re able to sponsor events like these that give many of our mentees a brand new experience, and enable all of us to strengthen the bonds between our mentors and mentees. I’m so excited for an even bigger Ice Skating night next time.” says Martinez.

“We had two mentees, both elementary-school age, talk about how they have never been ice skating before and always wanted to try it,” says Rachel White, the Talbot Mentors staffer who coordinated the skating event. “One was so excited and went out with no hesitation and loved everything about it. The second one was very nervous, so she decided to stand and watch. After a while she was convinced to try it. After one lap around she was smiling–and clearly having the time of her life.” Talbot Mentors paid for skate rentals and the 6:30–8:30 session—for mentees and mentors.

One mentor who had been at last year’s skating event with his mentee said that this is their favorite way to spend time together. “It’s challenging and we have a lot of laughs. It’s a great night out.”

Mentors and staff come away so gratified by the overwhelmingly fearless mentees. New to the ice or experienced, the kids embrace the challenges and forge ahead. There’s nothing better than watching the pairs try skating and to see the smiles as they learn together.

“The faces and sounds of all the children—that’s the best part of it all,” says Bre’Asia’s mentor, Lori.

For more information, to make a contribution, or to volunteer as a mentor, call Talbot Mentors at 410-770-5999, or visit www.talbotmentors.org.

Our next New Mentor Info Session is open to the public and will be held on Monday, February 12th at 4:30pm at the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, 114 S Washington St #101, Easton, MD 21601.

Three Stories of Talbot Mentors

Naturally, all children and adults are unique.  Recognizing the differences and similarities is a skill in which Talbot Mentors is well practiced.  Matching a caring, committed, friendly adult with a child who is in need or at high risk is Talbot Mentors (TM) purpose.

Here are three stories of very different adults who have committed to being a constant presence in multiple children’s lives. (mentees’ names are changed to respect their privacy.)

Left to right: Terry, Merrilie, Jim

Merrilie Ford, a Real Estate agent in Talbot County for 33 years, loves her profession as well as volunteering.  Fifteen years ago, with Character Counts, it was brought to her attention that a 4th grade boy, Mike (TM no longer matches opposite sexes) wanted someone to help him with his passion for singing.  “He was a really grand kid and his mother did a lot with him, especially with music.”  Unfortunately, she had a heart problem and went to a hospital in Baltimore.  Merrilie took Mike to see her and that was the last time he saw his mom.

During their time together, Merrilie and Mike would go frequently to the Academy Art Museum. “We would look at the art, but, mainly we would sit and talk on ‘our talking bench’.”   Coming to her house for dinner she taught him to set the table, and he said this simple thing was very helpful.  Mike, now 24 years old, occasionally emails and talks on the phone.

Merrilie’s second mentee, 12 yr old Sara, now 24, “hit it off” right away and to this day they can talk about anything.  Sara came from a strong family and has a wonderful grandmother.  Merrilie said “it was the normal, everyday things we do in life like going to the post office that Sara thought were fun and informative. The normal everyday living activities some kids just don’t get to experience for whatever reason – may it be lack of transportation, parents don’t have the time, or absence of extended family.”

Merrilie knew Sara loved art, so she took her to Washington, DC to see art galleries and museums. Merrilie asked if she wanted to go to a Mexican restaurant, but Sara announced she didn’t like that kind of food.  Merrilie talked her into trying the best Mexican restaurant in Washington and, consequently, Sara fell in love with Mexican food.  This lesson taught Sara that she has other “choices” and the courage to try new things.  They also took an exciting trip to New York City – lunch on Madison Ave, walking through wall-to-wall people on 57th St and down 5th Avenue, whereupon Sara exclaimed “THIS is New York!”.

After high school, Sara got an AmeriCorps job at the Talbot Mentors’ office for over a year, and then they offered her part-time employment. Before her job started she and a good friend took a month-long road trip to see the United States – all the way to the West Coast and back.  With the TM job responsibilities and fulfilling her passion for art, she also decided she has enough time to become a Mentor herself to a six-year-old.  Today, Merrilie keeps in touch by asking Sara to help her with things that young people are particularly connected with, like computers.

Yes, Merrilie is looking forward to being a mentor again. “Not having children of my own, rarely seeing my nieces and not having family close by, Talbot Mentors has given me a broader family and a support system.  Mentors and mentees I’ve come to know as friends are some of the nicest people that I wouldn’t otherwise have met.  Mentoring is way for me to have a youth experience in my life and it keeps my finger in the community of kids.”.  Knowing she has a good support system with Talbot Mentors and years of experience, she looks forward to a new mentee.

Ten years ago, Jim Reed, upon retirement as a general contractor, was encouraged by good friends to become a mentor to a child. Jim’s first mentee, Tony, 12, had a father who was only occasionally present in his life. Tony had waited on the TM list for two years before Jim came along.  After five years, Tony’s father returned to the family and it was decided that he no longer needed a Mentor. In time, unfortunately, Tony’s especially close grandfather died and Tony began spiraling downhill.  Jim did his best to meet with him for dinner and talk on the phone.  Recently he ran into Tony’s mom in the store, and she tearfully thanked Jim for being her son’s Mentor.

After Jim and Tony’s “official” match ended, nine-year-old Ricky was matched with Jim and they were together for a total of seven years.  Within the fifth year, Ricky’s father rejoined the family and they moved to the northernmost part of the Eastern Shore.  Heartened to learn that Ricky’s deepest regret about the relocation was “We can’t be mentor and mentee anymore.”  Committed to making the weekly over-an-hour drive, Jim continued their relationship.   Eventually Ricky moved back to Easton and as a teenager he began to get into trouble, both in school and out.  Ricky’s family decided he should live with an out-of-state relative so the official mentor/mentee match was closed.  Today at almost 18, Ricky works full time with a local landscape company and Jim still meets him for dinners.

After the “official” end of this last match, Jim told Natalie Costanzo, then the TM Executive Director, that he was going to take six months off before being matched again.  Within two weeks she reported that she had the perfect mentee for him – “a great ten-year-old.”  Bobby has been his mentee for the past six months and Jim says “We are having a really good time together.”

For Jim “the official mentor/mentee relationships might end at high school graduation, but a good portion of the relationship continues to this day because I have become an adult friend to a young person who can benefit from having one.” Jim swears that “as a mentor, he gets far more from it than the mentees do.”  He feels “it is an excellent use of my time and it has been a pleasure in the long run.”  He also knows each mentor/mentee relationship is unique.

Terry Harwood

At onetime Terry supervised 6,000 employees in the hotel business. Corporate life is stressful. Mentoring is fun.  In 1988 he started mentoring at-risk youth as a trustee at Living Classrooms Foundation in Baltimore, a hands-on educational enrichment and job training program. Now retired from the corporate world, he is having fun (“being goofy”) as a teammate with youth here in Talbot County.

When he moved to Easton in 2002, Terry first became a volunteer with Court Appointed Special Advocates;a youth leader; and youth care provider. Terry’s first Talbot Mentor match was in 2004-5; four other young men followed over the next 12 years. Terry enjoys remaining a mentor to all of them. When being together with a mentee he enjoys asking the question “What works for YOU and why?” Listening to the answers, he learns what is meaningful for them to do together: activity today, career, school programs, family, teamwork.   Teamwork with his mentees is fostered by meeting with them regularly.  He found he also spent time helping their parents find jobs, helped the mentees with college scholarships, talked about career choices and job applications and interviews.  “Sometimes we just walked around town to see what is behind the doors of businesses.”

As the kids “age out” at 18, Terry has continued their relationships as well as relationships with their parents and advisors. He introduces the concept of “listen, learn and love” as a powerful tool for the mentee to embrace. “Listen to another person. Learn from that person. Love that person by being a teammate in their success.”

By phone or in person, he asks his mentees questions to help them make a plan for the “next baby-step”.  In Terry’s professional experience the “next baby-step” is particularly important. He feels it conveys a learning to help the mentee better his practical, emotional and spiritual life. Terry feels he is doing what the “Lord gives me to do for His children.”

If being a Mentor is of interest to you, or perhaps someone you know, please feel free to contact Talbot Mentors at 410-770-5999 or go to: http://talbotmentors.org/  There are a number of children waiting for a special friend, possibly you.

Written by Meredith Watters on behalf of Talbot Mentors

Talbot Mentors Top-of-the-Season Cheer!

Dozens of mentees—plus their families and mentors—personified holiday spirit at the Talbot Mentors year-end party. The kids played, ate, and filled the Teen Center at the Easton YMCA with the sort of joy that Talbot Mentors specializes in!

“We had over 100 attend, and every mentee received a holiday gift,” says Rachel White, TM’s Program and Event Coordinator for more than three years. “The gifts were generously donated by community members of Easton Club East and Talbot Mentors board members.” Indeed, with all the presents brightly wrapped, the party space looked like Santa’s workshop.

Natalie Costanzo, surrounded by mentees, mentors, families and board members.

A good measure of the party food came courtesy of the Talbot Mentors cooking group known as Food For Thought, currently composed of three high school students who work with Chef Jean Butler. On the team are Javion Emory, Yubitza Galvez, and Ty’Asia Johnson.

“Food For Thought is usually a baking group but for the TM Christmas Party we were asked if we cook the main dishes,” says TM Case Manager LaToya Brooks, who works out of the TM St. Michaels. “The kids and the chef came up with the menu, chicken enchiladas and chicken cacciatore,” she continues. Since October, the Food For Thought trio has been busy. “We have baked for two events,” says LaToya. “Our very first event was the TM Boatwright play at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, and our second event was the Art & Craft Marketplace, where the kids baked pumpkin pies and sugar cookies to sell for a donation to Talbot Mentors.” A small portion of the events’ proceeds went to the bakers themselves.

The TM holiday also included a bittersweet element. It was time for everyone to say goodbye to Natalie Costanzo, the universally adored Executive Director of Talbot Mentors who with her family is leaving the organization to head back to Australia.

TM’s new Executive Director, Gerson Martinez, sums up the festive holiday party this way: “The evening was a testament to the strength of Natalie’s leadership of this organization. It was truly inspiring to see so many joyful children and families celebrating Natalie with their mentors,” he said, adding, “I am so thrilled and humbled to take on this responsibility going forward.”

Here’s to a vibrant and joy-filled New Year!

For more information, to make a contribution, or to volunteer as a mentor, call Talbot Mentors at 410-770-5999 or visit www.talbotmentors.org.

Talbot Mentors Send Kids to Camp

A NASA scientist, a fashion designer, an accomplished equestrian, a competitive basketball player? This summer, Talbot Mentors kids are having a blast as seeds for their futures are sown. Thanks to support from local groups and individuals, dozens of mentees are enjoying summer-camp days—and, in some cases, nights. While most are participating in day camps, a good many are at sleep-away camps. For some it is the first time they are away from home. For everyone it is a time of camaraderie, learning, and just plain good times.

“We got to trot!” says 8-year-old Sierra Watson, whose three days at pony camp outside Preston turned her from total novice to budding rider. She bonded with her horse, Freya, and hopes to get the chance to ride again.

In programs that range from 3 days to 2 weeks, in the mid-Atlantic and beyond—all the way to New York State—campers aged 6 to 16 are being treated to experiences of a lifetime. It’s all in keeping with the Talbot Mentors vision that “mentoring will make a significant contribution to building a Talbot County where all young people have the opportunity to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives…”

Says Talbot Mentors Executive Director Natalie Costanzo, “This is our fourteenth season of providing our mentees with life-changing camp experiences. I’m proud to say that last year Talbot Mentors funded summer camp for 47 kids. This year it’s double that number.” With some campers attending more than one session, the total number of summer camp experiences funded by Talbot Mentors tops 120.

Leadership, all manner of sports, nature, crafts, theater, photography, cooking. The themes of this summer’s camps range wide.

“The volunteers who mentor the kids get to see horizons expand,” says Natalie. “The mentees love to share their camp stories with their mentors,” she continues. “An important facet of mentoring is providing children with opportunities they might not otherwise have.”

Each child’s camp tuition is paid in full by a Talbot Mentors scholarship. Thanks go out to the Bryan Brothers Foundation, Children’s Home Foundation, Women and Girls Fund of the Mid Shore, and more than 75 private donors whose support makes this all possible. The total spent on this year’s camp program: in excess of $20,000.

The funding is changing lives in ways we can only imagine.

For more information, to make a contribution, or to volunteer as a mentor, call Talbot Mentors at 410-770-5999 or visit www.talbotmentors.org.

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