Editor's note: The following has been adapted from a press release from Kids 'n Kinship.
Over the last 40 years, the lives of more than 3,000 Dakota County youths have been enriched by having a positive adult role model, thanks to the efforts of Kids ‘n Kinship.
Kids ‘n Kinship is a mentoring organization serving Apple Valley, Burnsville, Eagan, Farmington, Lakeville and Rosemount. A nonprofit, tax exempt, 501(c)(3) organization, it matches individuals, couples and family volunteer mentors with youths in need.
A grassroots effort takes hold
In 1968, Carol and Dick Frick moved their young family to Burnsville, and were surprised by the number of single-parent homes. With the encouragement of a social worker, the couple launched a Kinship mentoring program through their church. In 1972, the fledgling Kids ‘n Kinship program began as an outreach program through the Community Action Council of Northwest Dakota County (CAC).
The Fricks organized outings, picnics, parties and other activities for volunteers and mentees, often gathering in their own home. Carol recalls that Dick always insisted that the children have fun. He wanted them to experience many different activities they wouldn’t ordinarily try.
They relied on in-kind donations, often funding the programs out of their own pockets.
Finally in 1980, with $200 in seed money from the CAC, the Kids ‘n Kinship program was turned over to an advisory board and Articles of Incorporation were filed with the State of Minnesota. Its nonprofit 501(c)3 status was granted by the IRS in 1982.
Carol and Dick had two dreams when they started the program: They wanted to match 100 children, which was accomplished, and they wanted to have a grown child return to mentor another child. This goal came true too. Although Dick Frick has since passed away, and Carol officially retired from her role as program manager in 1992, Carol continues to volunteer several hours a week, doing everything from folding newsletters to sending birthday cards to the kids.
Helping new generations succeed
“We have grown a community through relationships,” comments Executive Director Jan Belmore, who has been with Kids ‘n Kinship for 20 years. “Kids ‘n Kinship is proud of this important milestone and the healthy development of the area’s youth that has been provided. There is a rich history of caring and involved citizens who founded the program, and those who have carried the mission of providing friendships to youth forward. Our mentors have guided many of those children through highschool and beyond, creating lifelong friendships. In great part because of the depth of our experience, and the quality of our programs, we are now one of only nine programs in the state to achieve ‘expert’ status with the Mentoring Partnership Minnesota.”
Belmore explains that the need for mentors and funding continues to grow. There are currently 70 children matched with a mentor, and at any given time there are 50 or more children on Kids ‘n Kinship’s waiting list.
“We have more children being raised in single parent families, and more being raised by grandparents. When schools and other agencies see a child in need of an adult role model, they refer them to us. Often a child needs extra support because of what’s going on at home. Perhaps are needs or issues within the family and the child needs a positive role model. Or the need may be economic: With no car or phone, the child may be isolated and unable to participate in activities.
Each year, young people in Minnesota have an estimated 2,000 hours of unstructured, discretionary time. How they use their non-school hours is directly linked to their success later in life.
The nonprofit also provides material support and other aid to families in their charge.
“In addition to providing mentors, we collaborate with schools, businesses and social service agencies to support these families.”
She says they may, for example, refer the family to other agencies and organizations for warm winter coats or school backpacks.
Belmore adds that, “2011 outcome measurements conducted on the youth in the Kids ‘n Kinship program indicate that 100 percent are reducing their experience of isolation through consistent visits with their volunteer mentor, with whom they are learning new skills, physical activities, and hobbies. 98 percent have established a positive relationship with their adult mentor, and 97 percent reported a reduction in serious incidents or behavior during the time they were matched with a mentor. That is awesome prevention!”
Research has shown that the duration or length of a mentoring relationship is a very important indicator of positive outcomes for mentees. One found that most mentoring relationships last an average of nine months. At Kids 'n Kinship the average match lasts just under three years. “Many children get introduced to their mentor when they are younger. It is awesome to see the impact on their lives after many years of support,” says Belmore. “It is truly a witness to the prevention that Kids 'n Kinship is providing in their lives.”
The Celebration Begins
On Saturday, Sept. 8, Kids ‘n Kinship is inviting the community to help celebrate its thousands of successes with a 40th anniversary gala at the Crystal Lake Golf Club.
The gala will be an elegant evening featuring a cash bar, silent auction, music and other entertainment, a quilt raffle, wine cork pull, plus a sit-down dinner. Kids ‘n Kinship will celebrate its 40 years of success with a program including a video and photo slideshow.
Tickets are available for $40 each and can be purchased on the gala event website. Those who register early will receive a commemorative gift. Sponsorships are available and, to date, AAA of Minnesota/Iowa and the Northern Dakota Chapter of Thriven Financial for Lutherans have become sponsors.
For more information about mentoring or contributing, go to www.kidsnkinship.org or call 952-892-6368.