Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What are we looking for in others?

Have you seen the video where a couple of teams are passing around a basketball and the viewers are asked to count the number of passes between one of the teams? If you haven't I'd highly recommend it. You may view it on YouTube .

While this short British video was produced as part of a campaign to encourage people to watch out for bikes I think it also serves another purpose. It reminds us of how when we focus on certain things we're looking for we might miss other very important or obvious things.

Its easy for us to look at young people from disadvantaged circumstances and see all that might be lacking in terms of social skills, etc. When we are looking to reinforce our world view and stereotypes of "at risk" youth may miss the wealth of assets and strengths they bring. The same might also be true of our peception of our elders.

In our interactions with others let's focus our attention on the unique strengths and abilities they have to share with the world. Next time you're at the mall or see some teens hanging out, I'd encourage you to greet them with a smile! It might even help reduce their negative stereotype of adults.

I'm thankful for all the mentors, coaches, teachers and active neighbors who are helping young people realize their God given potential!

Oh yes, let's also watch out for bikes too! I was hit earlier this year by a car while riding my bike. The driver simply didn't notice me.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sharing Christmas joy with Kinship families

Over 800 children and family members are going to be receiving specially purchased gifts this Christmas through Kinship. This is being made possible thanks to many partners including Ameriprise, Best Buy, Target, Calvary Lutheran Church in Golden Valley and scores of other groups and individuals.

We are also most appreciative of Brookdale Covenant Church for hosting both the Adopt-a-Family program and our Kinshoppe. Last week 180 kids were able to shop for Christmas gifts for their family members. Generous contributions were received from groups like the Minnesota Truckers Association and many others.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Giving while we can still enjoy seeing the gift

A foundation is in the process of being established from the estate of a wealthy individual which will have two billion dollars in assets. My first reaction to hearing this was wow, think of all the great things that will be supported as a result of this newly developed foundation. Then I got to thinking about how this deceased person is going to miss out in the joy of the distribution of her assets.

Clearly we can't take anything with us once our days are over on this earth. However while we are here why not experience the joy of living and giving fully? I've been inspired by someone who's goal is to come to the end of their days just as they expend the last of their financial resources. This requires financial planning. With such planning it can help us to realize when we've saved enough so that we can more joyfully and freely enjoy the benefits of giving to the causes and charities of our choice during our lifetime.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Successful Minneapolis CARES mentor recruitment kickoff

Pictured above: Darrell Thompson, Executive Director Bolder Options, Gloria Lewis, Executive Director Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities and Dan Johnson, Executive Director Kinship of Greater Minneapolis

The kick off for Minneapolis CARES was held December 10th at the International Market Square. Kinship of Greater Minneapolis was pleased to partner with two other leading area mentoring programs, Bolder Options and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities to work on a shared recruitment campaign for African American mentors. Support for this campaign is also provided by the MADD Dads, Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota, General Mills, the United Way and the City of Minneapolis. This shared effort is coming under the local umbrella of Minneapolis CARES and the National CARES movement headed by Susan Taylor.

Ms. Taylor gave a moving keynote address, sharing of the importance of mentoring in the lives of youth. She strongly encouraged the African American community to become engaged in mentoring the next generation by joining one of the local mentoring programs featured at this event. Nancy Torrison, Kinship of Greater Minneapolis' Recruitment and Communications Director was a primary planner for this event and serves on the Minneapolis CARES steering committee.

Pictured at right: Dan and Susan Taylor

Friday, November 27, 2009

The gift of relationship and the Advent Conspiracy

There is a movement underfoot to redirect the celebration of Christmas from a season of stress, traffic jams and shopping lists to a time of reflection and strengthening of relationships. The core message of the Advent Conspiracy is to worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all.

In the words of the Advent Conspiracy...
Christmas can (still) change the world. This year give Presence.

This is a counter cultural idea which reflects the radical message of the gospel. I'm quite sure that the very best gift we could give to a child is the gift of our presence.

If you would like to learn more about becoming a mentor please call or email Kinship to befriend a child in need of your friendship. PH: 612-588-4655, Email: mail@kinship.org.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving thanks under stress

It seems these days either one is stressed because they have a job and the work load has increased OR because one is unemployed and under financial pressure. Either way, lots of stress going around!

At a Thanksgiving service yesterday I heard a message written years ago by the apostle Paul who was under enormous stress, being imprisoned in a foreign country during his years as a missionary. Despite these adverse circumstances his letter contained a most joyful and encouraging message written to his friends in Philippi.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

-Philippians 4: 4-9, New International Version

As I open the paper this morning and saw a flood of advertisements I'm was also reminded of a favorite expression "The most important things in life aren't things."

Today I'm thankful for caring individuals everywhere who are sharing meals, and even more importantly, sharing their love and friendship.

Peace and joy to you and your kin on this day of giving thanks!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What's wrong with Charitable Giving?

A thoughtful article in the Wall Street Journal provided the following recommendations to fix some of the present difficulties associated with charitable giving. Recommendations included the following:

1. Increase the distribution percentage of required foundation annual payouts from 5% to 6%
2. Increase giving to general operating support
3. Increase multi year funding
4. Adopt rolling grant making
5. Allocate more funding to the truly needy.
6. Reach out to local groups in under served populations
7. Simplify application and reporting process
8. Improve public accountability
9. Fund the watchdogs

This article also raised the question of whether it makes sense to have funds that are made to last into perpetuity. Good thoughts and questions as we consider the pressing needs of many nonprofits serving disadvantaged populations.

The author, Mr. Eisenberg, a senior fellow in the Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership at Georgetown Public Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.

A more expansive report on philanthropy is available from the Wall Street Journal.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Minneapolis CARES mentor recruitment campaign

The kick off for Minneapolis CARES will be Thursday, December 10th from 5-8 pm at International Market Square (275 Market Street). This is a major collective mentor recruitment effort with Kinship of Greater Minneapolis, Bolder Options, Big Brothers and Sisters, MADD Dads and the City of Minneapolis. This event will include hors d'oevres, live jazz and a cash bar. Susan Taylor, founder of the National CARES Mentoring Movement and Essence magazine will help to launch this event along with special hostess Angela Davis from WCCO television. The primary goal the national CARES movement is to mobilize massive numbers of able African Americans to take the lead in fulfilling our society's spiritual and social responsibility to our children. This will be one by connecting caring adults to existing community-based organizations, where they can serve as role models, dedicated to helping vulnerable young people transform and secure their lives.

Like to know more about Minneapolis CARES please contact Nancy Torrison, NancyT@kinship.org.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Give to the Max, Success to the Max!

Thanks to all for promoting and participating in Minnesota’s "Give to the Max Day" November 17th. Kinship of Greater Minneapolis received 51 gifts totaling $11,445.00. Additionally there will be matching funds of $500,000 distributed among the over $14,000,000 in donations given to more than 3,000 nonprofits.

It is not too late to give through this website. Thanks to underwriters of this service 100% of donations go directly to support kids in need of mentoring through Kinship, GiveMN.

One of the added advantages of giving online through GiveMN is that they will keep track of all your charitable donations to MN nonprofits throughout the year and provide a year-end statement for your tax purposes.

Thanks to all for your generosity during these difficult economic times!


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Michelle Obama Launches Mentoring Program

First Lady Michelle Obama has established a mentoring program for 20 teenage girls in the Washington DC area. Top administration officials will be serving as mentors to help them develop life skills.

With so many important local and world issues it is impressive that Ms. Obama has chosen to personally become involved with mentoring. She commented "I always wanted to be a bridge between kids like me and the possibilities that can propel them to greatness."

In addition to providing support the First Lady is encouraging the protegee's to recognize their need to give back. "We have some expectations from you as well, that when you get to this position, you do the same for someone else," she said. "And if we keep building in that way, holding one another up, there's no telling what we can do."

If someone as busy as the First Lady is finding time to become a mentor I hope we all will check our priorities to see if we too might consider doing the same.

A full report on this is available from Politico.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Benefit Of A Mentor: Disadvantaged Teens Twice As Likely To Attend College

Two findings from a new national study reveal the power of mentors, particularly those in the teaching profession:

•For all teen students, having an adult mentor meant a 50 percent greater likelihood of attending college.
•For disadvantaged students, mentorship by a teacher nearly doubled the odds of attending college.

"Potential is sometimes squashed by the social environment, and the data show that mentors can overcome those forces," said Lance Erickson, a sociology professor at Brigham Young University and the study's lead author.

"Comments from study participants indicate that their mentors weren't necessarily doing anything extraordinary, just being involved and treating the young person as an important human being," Erickson said.

The research will appear next week in the academic journal Sociology of Education. Study coauthor Steve McDonald, a sociologist at North Carolina State University, notes a harsh paradox evident in the numbers.

"Youth who are most likely to need mentors are least likely to have them," McDonald said.

The information above was reported in Science Daily.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Give to the Max Day November 17th

You can stretch your giving dollars even further by participating in "Give to the Max Day" on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009. On this day GiveMN.org will match a percentage of your donation up to a maximum match of $1,250!

GiveMN.org is a brand new website that allows you to discover, support and engage with the local charities that match your philanthropic goals.

To make your gift to Kinship go to Kinship of Greater Minneapolis GiveMN page. Matching is available for contributions made beginning at 8 a.m. CDT on the 17th through 8 a.m. on the 18th.

Please maximize your contribution -

* Give local. Find your perfect Minnesota match, such as Kinship
* Give fast. Make online donations quickly and easily via credit card
* Give smart. Record all online contributions and store receipts
* Give completely. 100% of all donations comes straight to our organization

This is a great opportunity to maximize your charitable end-of-year giving this season, and help us support families and children in need of mentoring.

Thanks for your consideration!

Friday, October 30, 2009

MInnesota Kinship Alliance

The fall meeting of the Minnnesota Kinship Alliance was hosted by Kinship Partners in Brainerd Minnesota. Thirteen state affiliates were represented as best practices were discussed around areas like mentor orientations, fund raising and mentor recruitment. A special appearance was made by Gary Walters and his wife Lisa, who recently rollerbladed from Brainerd to Washington DC to support Kinship Partner mentoring.

There was interest a possible combined bike fund raiser this next summer, with a special emphasis on tandems (people working together as pairs). A sub committee is being developed to begin planning.

Interested in a bike ride to support Kinship, please let me know!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The pearl of great price and mentoring?

"Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who is a merchant seeking fine pearls, who having found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it." - Matthew 13:45-46

The pearl of great price… always been a mystery to me. I’m not into jewelry and expensive things. My jewelry consists of a watch and a ring. I think of myself as pretty practical and conservative. What in the world would a pearl have to do with God’s Kingdom? This seems mighty irrational to me. What’s a pearl got to do with Jesus’ ministry of healing and redeeming lives?

In further review I found a few aspects of the story that make sense for me regarding how God operates in the world, and pointers for Kinship’s ministry.

Quality over quantity

This is a story about investing it all for just one pearl. Isn’t that risky business? What if the merchant loses the one pearl, or if it turns out to be a fake? What we chose to invest in might seem like folly to others. At Kinship I’m sometimes frustrated with how costly it can be to recruit, screen, match, and provide follow-up support to mentors and their kids. There are plenty of programs that serve thousands of youth for considerably less. However I’m reminded of a camp director that wanted to pair up with Kinship, because so often those programs can provide a brief, perhaps mountaintop experience, but then kids return home and have little reinforcement of their experience.

We need to be willing to invest big in things of great value

Such as the kingdom of God and our kids. We need to be shrewd investors, like this merchant. Small investments have the potential for small yields. I’m reminded of the biblical story about Mary and Martha, and the Martha's lavish use of expensive perfume on Jesus' feet. I’m one of those conservative guys that wouldn’t want to spend money on things like perfume and pearls. Yet, Jesus reminds us, the Kingdom work is to be done now… building relationships with kids is welcoming Jesus. And just like Martha, we shouldn’t be frugal with those relationships and our resources.

Pearls are formed out of a difficult environment

Pearls are grains of sand which find themselves inside of an oyster. The oyster builds the pearl because of the irritation it feels from the sand. I think that there are plenty of adults who consider kids, and especially those who might be lacking social skills, nothing but irritation. However with support despite their adversity, or perhaps because of their adversity, when given guidance and support, they become pearls. That growth is not without pain however. A kid from a single parent home living in an apartment in a rough part of town of lacks social courtesies. Sadly, that too often is a throw away kid, not someone who we might think of as a pearl, and worth a great investment of our time and financial resource.

God’s kingdom shouldn’t be contained within a shell

Sometimes people have confused church buildings with God’s kingdom. However if our work is confined to within the building walls we are a lot like a pearl that never sees the light of day. Efforts like Kinship seek to redefine the mentality of the church and God’s Kingdom from being a fortress to being manifest when we are in caring and supportive relationship with others, especially in their times of need.

Kingdom work is relationship building, across the divides, between rich and poor. Throughout Jesus’ preaching he was always hammering on caring for the poor, and orphans. He even said pure ministry undefiled is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. James 1:27

A pearl of great price and mentoring kids... perhaps not such a stretch after all?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Children need adults who are crazy about them

“In order to develop normally, a child requires progressively more complex joint activity with one or more adults who have an irrational emotional relationship with the child. Somebody's got to be crazy about that kid. That's number one. First, last and always.” -Urie Bronfenbrenner, Developmental Psychologist

I believe the greatest strength of mentoring is that it provides kids with adults in their lives who are irrationally crazy about them. People who are not being paid, yet care enough to be a dependable friends, even when things aren’t always going smoothly.

I’m grateful for the multitude of people who have decided to give unconditionally of themselves and their time, much like extended family members, to provide supportive mentoring relationships. They are making a world of difference in the healthy development of kids!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Youth violence down in Minneapolis

Kinship of Greater Minneapolis has been an active participant with the city of Minneapolis to prevent youth crime through our work in mentoring. Following is a press release from the city indicating the success of this collaborative effort.

Oct. 14, 2009 (MINNEAPOLIS) The City of Minneapolis this week received national recognition for its “Blueprint for Action” plan that works to address the root causes of violence and significantly reduce youth violence in Minneapolis. In its report, The State of City Leadership, the National League of Cities applauded Minneapolis for its efforts and calls this program one of the nation’s three most innovative city models for preventing youth violence.

The report also states that “Minneapolis has successfully reframed youth violence as a public health issue through an extensive process of planning and community engagement which has united and galvanized community leaders and residents around a broader vision of youth violence prevention.”

“Reducing youth violence requires a strategic, holistic and multi-faceted response,” said Mayor R.T. Rybak. “This recognition is a testament to our efforts and the efforts of our partners in reducing youth violence in Minneapolis. But we can’t stop here. We need to keep working on finding new and creative ways to educate children and their families on the importance of violence prevention.”

“Government can’t eliminate violence from our community on its own,” said City Council Member Cam Gordon, Youth Violence Prevention Steering Committee member,. “We need the great work of so many people in the community who help us surround our youth and their families with support, opportunity and hope. Thanks to the leadership and cooperation of more than 80 stakeholders, we are headed in the right direction.”

In 2008, the Blueprint for Action was launched with the following goals: connect every youth with a trusted adult; intervene at the first sign that youth are at risk for violence; restore youth who have gone down the wrong path; and, unlearn the culture of violence in our community.

Since 2007, juvenile crime has declined by 29 percent throughout the City, and 37 percent since 2006, according to a “Blueprint for Action” report. What’s more, in four of the five target neighborhoods, youth violence was down by an average of 39 percent since 2007 and 43 percent since 2006.

In addition to “Blueprint for Action,” Mayor Rybak’s Minneapolis Promise college-preparation initiative , the City-County Commission to End Homelessness, and Minneapolis’ Bridge Center for homeless youth, were also highlighted in the State of City Leadership report. The report was released in Boston at the 2009 National Summit on Your City’s Families and is available at http://www.nlc.org/iyef/

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Nation's Points of Light still shining

Recently President Barack Obama joined President H.W. Bush to recognize the 20th anniversary of the "thousand points of light" program to promote and recognize service. President Obama observed during the ceremony, "In the end, service binds us to each other and to our community and to our country in a way that nothing else can". The present goal of the Points of Light Institute is to make service central to our nation’s priorities.

On October 9th, 1992 Kinship of Greater Minneapolis was the nation’s 917th daily Point of Light. Thanks to the over 1,600 volunteers who as mentors have been points of light to kids through Kinship of Greater Minneapolis. Isn't it stunning how impactful light can be, especially in a dark room? Let's continue to let our lights shine in a world that so desperately needs light and hope!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Best practices in mentoring

I’m sometimes amused when I hear from someone who asks me in amazement… you mean you get paid for working with a mentoring program? It’s as if they thought that since mentors were volunteers these relationships should simply happen without any paid staff or the necessary infrastructure. I’m quick to reply that much like operating an adoption agency, to do quality mentoring is not quick, easy or free.

Recently MENTOR released their third edition of Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring. Some of the key practices include recruitment, screening, orientation, training, matching, follow-up support, recognition and closure of relationships. To do all of these practices commonly require professional staff, which in turn requires funding.

The backbone of mentoring relies on the kindness of volunteers to befriend kids in need. However without a strong infrastructure even the most enthusiastic efforts are likely to fail. Kinship’s had over 50 years to evolve its programming, and it continues to evolve. Having matches that last on average well over three years is an indicator of the value of our effective practices.

I'm proud that Kinship models the elements of effective practice. Thanks to all who provide funding and volunteer support to make this possible!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Blessed to be a blessing

It came as a surprise to see one of our long time Kinship mentors, Tim Wilberding, highlighted in the business section of the StarTribune this week. As a successful businessman he was recognized for both his growing business and also his interesting background. In addition to having an MBA he also earned a bachelors degree in Christian ministry. Another interesting aspect of Tim's background is that he was in the rodeo while in college and continued riding for few years afterwards on the professional circuit.

Tim's business is Loan Analytics Inc., an Apple Valley company that provides loan-portfolio analysis software to banks in the farm credit system.

In addition to being a faithful Kinship mentor to an 11 year-old boy, Tim also volunteers once-a-week at an Apple Valley nursing home, and does some periodic street evangelizing to share the scripture.

Tim described his motivation for these activities: "Those who are blessed should share their blessings with others."

My hats off to Tim Wilberding for putting his faith into action on behalf of others in need!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Chicago's $60 million dollar investment to stop youth violence

The city of Chicago is going to be investing sixty million dollars over two years on 10,000 kids they have identified as being most likely targets of violence (Article printed in Star Tribune). They will be giving these teens additional adult attention, jobs and a local advocate that will be on call for them 24 hours a day.

This action is being taken with hopes of impacting the rampant violence among Chicago's youth. There have been 67 deaths since 2007 from youth violence while hundreds of others have survived shootings and beatings on their way home from school.

The city of Minneapolis has its own plan to quell youth violence, entitled the Blueprint for Action: Preventing Youth Violence in Minneapolis. The four key areas of focus for this plan are as follows:

*Connect every youth with a trusted adult,
*Intervene at the first sign that youth are at risk for violence,
*Restore youth who have gone down the wrong path, and
*Unlearn the culture of violence in our community.

Kinship has an active role with this plan in helping connect youth with trusted adults. When we match up kids with adults who will be a positive, steady influence in their lives, they are much more likely to get headed toward successful lives and less likely to end up as victims or perpetrators of violence. Kinship's also got a special focus on mentoring children of prisoners, who without intervention are seven times more likley than their peers to enter the correctional system.

If you're looking to stop the violence, please consider becoming a mentor to one of the more that 140 kids on our waiting list who are all eager to have an adult friend.

Friday, October 2, 2009

KIDS COUNT: Children’s Defense Fund Study

There was both good news and bad news mixed in the most recent study of children’s welfare in the state of Minnesota. First the good news:

• Students dropping out of school has declined 57 percent since 2000.
• 6,277 children were abused and neglected, a 33 percent decrease from 2002.
• 10,895 children were arrested for a serious crime, down from 15,398 in 2000.

The bad news:

• 11 percent of Minnesota’s children lived in poverty in 2008.
• 24 percent of Asian children in Minnesota live below the poverty level in 2007, the worst among all 32 states participating in KIDS COUNT with enough Asian children to produce reliable estimates.
• 88,000 Minnesota children did not have health care coverage in 2008, an increase from 2007.
• 270,247 (33 percent) Minnesota children received free/reduced price lunch during the 2008-2009 school year.

Among other concerning statistics, the study noted single parent households have risen 27% from 2000-07. We know that these families are more likely to struggle financially and less likley to afford adequate child care, safe housing, and proper health care.

The Children's Defense Fund estimates the annual costs to the state of Minnesota resulting from children growing up in poverty is 5.7 billion dollars.

The full report "The Building Blocks for Successful Children: Minnesota Kids Count Databook 2009" is available for download in a PDF format.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Benefits of mentoring for adults

Chuck Slocum challenged adults 55 and over to mentor children (9/21/09). He noted about 300,000 Minnesota children are on road to failure if adults don't help. He made a strong case for the critical need to mentor “throw away kids.” What he didn’t say was how adults can benefit by their involvement as mentors.

Think about it, the only thing better than going to a baseball game is taking along a youngster and helping him or her learn to understand and enjoy the game. Isn’t teaching a kid how to make a meal better than going out to eat on your own? Being perhaps the one enthusiastic fan a child has to watch him/her play their game is far more rewarding than watching millionaire athletes play on TV. And finally, one of the greatest benefits to mentoring is that after you’ve enjoyed time together you get to bring the child home. It is like having the fun of being a grandparent, without all of the parental responsibilities.

It may well be that us older adults need kids just as much, if not more, than they need us.

The above posting was a letter of the day in the StarTribune.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Successful 10th annual golf benefit for Kinship

Over 90 golfers enjoyed golfing on a ideal summer's day September 14th at Paynesville's Koronis Hills Golf Course. Not only did they enjoy a round of golf they also raised $25,000 to benefit Kinship's mentoring program. This was Steve Peterson and Mary Wilken's 10th year of sponsoring this event. The golf event is a tribute to Steve's dad, Lloyd, who farmed for many years in Paynesville. A special aspect of the day was when one of the golfers, Jeremy Willner, drove in a hole in one.

Hats off to Steve and Mary for hosting this successful event! As always a wonderful spirit of hospitality was evidenced as participants not only enjoyed golf but also lunch, supper and a brief program. Steve and Mary's efforts have raised about $200,000 over these past 10 years. Pictured are Steve and Mary along with Nancy Wagner (Kinship staff at center).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Over the top across the bottom

Last Saturday watching a high school cross country meet I observed a young lady cheering on the runners who was wearing navy terry cloth shorts which had written across them in red lettering “sexy”.

Quickly I thought what was she thinking wearing such shorts at such a public event? I then wondered about how her parents could have let her out of the door. Finally I settled on the question most concerning, how is it that we allow stores in our community to sell such clothing to our children and youth?

The United States of America is known across the world for its freedoms. Sadly, without an equal dose of responsibility those freedoms can lead to decay and downfall. I think that most adults would agree that selling shorts with cutie and sexy across the bottoms is irresponsible. To whom are these merchandisers accountable? I would invite you to join me in stopping by stores that sell such merchandise, ask to speak to the store manager and letting him/her know you are uncomfortable with their practice of selling such clothing to our kids. Then write to the company headquarters as a follow up.

We must ask ourselves when we see this kind of thing is how can adults, you and me, allow this kind of irresponsible marketing to occur to our children? Let's let our dissatisfaction be known, the kids are counting on us.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mentoring is vital for the economy

An experienced leader in business, Chuck Slocum, wrote a challenging article in today's StarTribune, "Mentors are needed so fewer kids will fail". He invites business leaders and others to respond to the challenge of "Eliminating Throwaway Kids". It is estimated that more than half of the 60,000 kindergartners entering school in Minnesota are not fully prepared. Sadly, about 25% will be unable to catch up. Without intervention, such as mentoring, the cost to society over time often includes unemployment, crime, drug dependency and unwanted children. Mr. Slocum points out that of the more than 5 million residents within the state of Minnesota about 1 million are 18 or younger. Tragically, we can predict that about 300,000 of these children and youth are on a failure tract. One business leader commented "We in Minnesota can't afford to have hundreds of thousands of potential new workers shelved when we need them the most."

The article also noted that it costs a family about $220,000 to raise one child from birth to adulthood. Yet, 40 million Americans are living below the poverty line of $20,000 a year income for a family of four. This includes about 15 million children.

Thanks to Mr. Slocum for raising this significant concern and opportunity. We need people from the business and faith communities to respond to the challenge. Our common futures depend on it. If you are interested in getting the word out about mentoring within your business or place of worship please contact Kinship today, www.kinship.org, 612-588-4655.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

School fees and the common good

As the parent of a high school freshman, I was stunned to learn kids at Robbinsdale Armstrong High School must shell out a $200 fee to participate on an athletic team and $100 fee for an activity, such as chess club, debate or even the privilege of participating in a play. These fees don’t include any of the out of pocket expense for equipment, instruments or trips. So, if you’ve got a particularly athletic or musical child, it could easily cost you $600/year per child in fees alone. Should you have more than one child, do the math, it quickly adds up to a princely sum. Armstrong is not alone with student activity fees. These fees are increasingly commonplace in schools everywhere.

As one of five kids in my family growing up in Minneapolis, and attending the old Central High, fees for sports would have most certainly precluded my participation. As a shy kid with little confidence I needed encouragement, not discouragement. I’m thankful that “back in the day” my family didn’t have to pay for my cross country running, cross country skiing, or track. Like so many others, sports and music were highlights for me in high school, college, and beyond.

Don’t we want as many of our kids as possible to be involved with plays and sports after school, especially those who might not have many resources? With childhood obesity becoming epidemic rather than putting up road blocks with fees we should be doing all we can to encourage activity. While I know that there are scholarships for kids on reduced or free lunches, I’m certain many would not feel comfortable asking for such assistance.

User fees are a form of taxes for things that until recently we paid for collectively, understanding that we were supporting the common good. Some churches are now attaching fees for kids attending Sunday school and confirmation programs. Remember drivers education, that used to be included in public school? Not any longer, now students/parents better be prepared to shell out $350 or more for private lessons. Our belief in collectively contributing to the common good has been dramatically eroded.

I hope that we will reconsider this trend toward user fees and once again support young people's activities with our taxes. Let’s do all we can to encourage, not discourage, our kids healthy development. It is for our common good.

This blog is also posted at the MinnPost online newspaper.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The incredible power of passion

They made it! After 23 days Gary Walters and his family made it from Brainerd to Washington DC rollerblading. Every year Gary does something well beyond his capabilities and yet, with overwhelming passion, he's able to achieve his goals.

Gary and family are a great reminder for me to lift up my goals a bit higher, beyond those things which are easily within my grasp. They also remind me of the value of fun and family time. What a great memory this will be for Gary, his wife Lisa (sag wagon), daughter Jessica (biking) and son Jackson (rollerblading) as they can recall an amazing journey which also raised funds and awareness for Kinship mentoring. I'm proud of Gary and his family and hope that it will inspire many others to either become mentors or support mentoring programs. Much like their journey, mentoring can be a tremendous life changing experience, with fun along the way!

Their journey is chronicled on Facebook.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Importance of gettng to know your neighbors, especially the "creepy" ones

How can it be that a convicted sex offender and his wife could abduct and then hide a girl for 18 years, along with the two children that resulted from continued sexual abuse? An article in the StarTribune reminded us of how neighbors seemed to have largely turned a blind eye to this tragic situation. Sadly the time or two authorities were called they failed to fully investigate the home.

How many times have we heard, whatever people do in their own homes is none of our business? Well, perhaps there are times like this it should be. This is a great reminder of the value of getting to know your neighbors, especially those who might give you the creeps. There might also be children living there who could use a caring adult or two in their lives.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

21 Years with Kinship of Greater Minneapolis

I’ve been privileged to witness many fruits of Kinship of Greater Minneapolis these past 21 years. Pictured at left is Joshua who was highlighted earlier this year in my blog. Thanks to his Kinship friends, the Westphals, he is harvesting a tomato from the garden they planted together earlier this year.

Yesterday I enjoyed participating in the Cookie Cart’s 21st anniversary. Like Kinship they had a moving story of a recipient of their program graduating from law school this year. Those early seeds that were planted, watered and cultivated are now being realized as fruit.

It has also been 21 years since I was called to help launch Kinship of Greater Minneapolis as a separate nonprofit organization from its parent organization, the Plymouth Christian Youth Center. Quite a journey it has been for me and the over 1,600 mentors, children and families served. Along the way it has been affirming to witness the power of long-term caring relationships to redeem and change lives.

One of my favorite expressions is “good things take time”. I like to add, “really good things take a really long time”. Learning a language, becoming proficient at a sport or musical instrument, the list goes on. So it is with mentoring. It isn’t a quick fix kind of thing. It takes considerable time to develop trust and the additional outcomes we seek: responsibility, respect, social skills and optimism.

Thanks to all who have volunteered, worked and contributed financially to help kids realize their God given potential through Kinship these past 21 years. Your support is yielding tremendous results!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Workplace mentoring & coaching

I've been privileged to be a part of a leadership circle these past 15 years with a few other nonprofit executive directors. It has been a tremendous experience meet every other month over breakfast, and share ideas and concerns with others in similar situations.

While academic learning is valuable, the support of peers can be invaluable. Having developed a strong trusting relationship we're able to share from our hearts both achievements and challenges. With an increasingly challenging economic environment it has been comforting to talk with others who are also in the trenches, passionate about their nonprofit missions.

Our Leadership Circle was developed by Carter McNamara, while working for the Management Assistance Project for Nonprofits. An article was published in today's Star Tribune that highlights Carter's business, Authentic Leadership, which now also works in the corporate world, including clients like Microsoft.

In addition to the development of leadership circles, Carter has also provided an outstanding resource to nonprofits with the posting of a free nonprofit management library on the Internet, http://managementhelp.org/

Thanks to Carter and my nonprofit collegues who have provided invaluable support to me in my leadership with Kinship. We're never too old to benefit from mentoring!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tiger & Brett watchers, consider being a hero yourself!

It is amazing the attention that Tiger Woods and Brett Favre have drawn from people here in Minnesota and beyond.

I’m quite sure Tiger and Brett really don’t need our attention, they’re doing just fine. However there are scores of kids throughout our neighborhoods who are falling through the cracks. Unlike sports celebrities they are starved for attention. Without intervention they might well end up dropping out of school, become unemployable, end up in prison, and remain on a track of hopelessness.

By befriending a child in need you can perhaps introduce a sport to the next Tiger or Brett. Better yet, your interest in a child’s education just might inspire him/her to improve grades and graduate on time with the rest of the class.

One cool thing about mentoring is that you don’t have to be uber talented to be a hero for a kid. All that is needed is to be dependable and share your interest in their development. Mentors are typically matched with kids based on their interests and location.

Not able to make a commitment to mentoring? Consider coaching, tutoring or simply getting to know the names of kids in your neighborhood and greeting them by name. You can even make a difference by smiling at teens you see at the mall.

Don’t settle for being a hero watcher when you can BE a hero. Email Kinship today to find out how you can befriend a child near you, email@kinship.org.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rollerbading to DC for Kinship Mentoring

I was inspired this past Saturday morning visiting Gary Walters at Lake Calhoun, in South Minneapolis. He and his some of his family were taking a break on their journey rollerblading from Brainerd, MN to Washington DC to raise awareness for Kinship mentoring. I joined them briefly on my bike around Calhoun and Harriet, before they continued along Minnehaha Parkway, and onward toward Washington DC.

Annually Gary has taken on a big challenge to raise money and awareness for Kinship Partners. Gary believes that “If we change a kid’s life, we change the future for all of us,” The past six years Walters has biked from New Orleans to Brainerd, Minnesota, lived on Brainerd’s historic water tower for nine days, walked across Minnesota, swam across Mille Lacs Lake, lost a 100 pounds and unicycled for 24 hours. He's entitled his annual efforts "Walters Wacky Adventures".

Gary's a big guy, and has already taken a number of falls, with some significant scrapes. His intense, contagious passion makes up for the fact that he's not all that young, trim or physically fit. Gary is making the journey with his wife, Lisa, daughter Jessica, and son, Jackson. Lisa is driving the support vehicle, Jackson is rollerblading and Jessica is riding her bike.

God's speed to you Gary, Lisa, Jessica and Jackson as you continue on your courageous journey to Washington DC on behalf of kids in need of mentoring. Thanks for being great Kinship representatives and advocates!

The StarTribune posted a nice article on the Walter's adventure, Effort to raise cash for charity really rolling along: The trip to Washington, D.C., on a pair of skates is just Gary Walters' latest money-raising adventure for Kinship.

You can follow along on their journey on Walters Wacky Adventures Facebook account.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Oops, they did it again

Seems that Miley Cyrus, aka 'Hannah Montana', is running off the same cliff as her teen hero Brittney Spears did a few years ago. At the Teen Choice Awards earlier this week she shattered her popular image as a wholesome teen and instead dressed seductively and danced around a pole. All this at 16 years of age.

Having a 14 year old daughter I used to feel great about the fun loving role model she saw in Miley, watching the Disney show Hannah Montana. Now I'm concerned about this new role model who appears to be considerably less than wholesome. While it is easy to point fingers at Miley for this indiscretion, one must also take a hard look at the commercialization and marketing of sex to teens. Sex sells, and it seems that the marketing folks behind Miley's image felt the need to ratchet it up a notch or two with her recent performance.

Working with a mentoring program it is frustrating to have to battle these kinds of sexualized images of teens, and pre-teens as we encourage healthy development. Other than an annual spelling bee, academically gifted kids are rarely, if ever, highlighted in the media. Is it any wonder that schools are having to stuggle with dress code policies even for their youngest students?

There is more on this story in the LA Times.

Here's hoping Miley spends more time developing 'Hannah Montana' as a fun loving maturing teen, and quickly gets off of that dangerous Brittney track.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lone wolf in need of collaborative partners

On our summer vacation to Ontario, Canada, we spotted a lone Gray Wolf along the roadside. The wolf seemed gaunt and appeared to longingly look toward us in the car. I'm not sure if he was looking for a hand out, or perhaps a hand to snack on?

Our encounter with this lonely wolf reminded me of the challenges of going it alone. When wolves are in packs they're effective hunters. It is considerably more challenging for them to capture their prey when they don't have their pack members/collegues to help them reach their shared mission.

As our economic environment becomes increasingly challenging it appears that it will become even more necessary for us all to figure out how best to collaborate with other partners to achieve a common mission. Kinship is thankful for a wealth of partners in the corporate, foundation, nonprofit, school and faith communities that work with us in order to provide mentors for kids in need.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Could the next community be virtual?

I’m realizing first hand the power of a virtual community by following a cousin’s blog who, with his wife, is adopting a child from Kiev, Ukraine. They are making daily posts with their progress along with pictures, even their young son gets to put his photographs on the web. This new virtual community hits even closer to home with my daughter, who must have a hundred “friends” on Facebook. She can keep in touch with these friends electronically 24/7.

So, what if anything is the role of our traditional community… that promotes service clubs, has parades, worship’s together, visits shut ins, plays sports, attends cultural events and yes, mentors kids too?

Somehow I don’t think that our electronic community, cool as it is, can ever replace a face to face community. A child will never learn to play the game of baseball simply by mastering a virtual game of “Backyard Baseball” in the apartment. He or she will need someone to play catch and retrieve hits. How can electronics ever replace the caring and warmth of real human interaction?

Virtural communities can provide a wonderful augmentation to communication with friends and family, but can never replace the quality of relationship only possible through face to face interaction.

Virtually yours,

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Corporate team building with kids

What could be a better gift for a kid than a new bike? Perhaps the only thing better could be to have the pride of assembling it yourself with the help of a caring adult. This is what a team of employees from eDocument Resources provided for 10 kids awaiting Kinship mentors on July 20th at Longfellow Park in south Minneapolis. Each of the kids were empowered to be the "project manager" for their bicycle's assembly. One of the girls receiving a bike shared how just within the past couple of days her bike was stolen. So, with haste, one of the eDocument employees purchased locks for all the bikes that were sent home with the kids.

The sponsor of this event, eDocumentResources, made it a team building activity for their employees. Ken Schempp, the company president, heard about Kinship's mentoring program through his church, Westwood Lutheran in St. Louis Park. He wanted to support kids and also engage his employees. It worked out to be a win-win event.

This event provided a fun and meaningful team building activity for the employees and a wonderful gift for the kids who are on Kinship's waiting list, eager to have a Kinship mentor. Kinship of Greater Minneapolis typically has a list of 150 kids, ages 5-15, primarily of single parent homes eager to have adult mentors. Often the kids wait over one year before an individual, couple or family is found that will be their Kinship friend. Mentors are encouraged to include their kids in everyday activities about once a week, for a minimum of one year. In addition to ongoing staff support, group events and ticket opportunities are also afforded throughout the year to support these relationships.

If you have a group that might be interested in sponsoring an event for Kinship kids please contact Gaylene Adams at 612-588-4655, gaylenea@kinship.org.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Teen needs: connection, guidance and love

As teens begin their developmental stage of pushing away, and separating themselves from adults it is tempting for adults to simply want to let go, disconnect, and abdicate responsibility for these often less than loving youth. However a national expert, Dr. David Walsh, from the National Institute on Media and the Family declares is still tremendously important that adults continue to connect, provide guidance and love.

He noted that the largest protective factor for kids to prevent future drug abuse or teen pregnancy is connection with adults; parents, neighbors, teachers, mentors. As parents seemingly loose intellegence during this period, it is more important than ever that they have other adults in their lives to encourage positive development and decision making.

Teens still need adults to set limits and provide guidance. Research has discovered human brains don't fully develop until their early 20's, so the decision making is not going to be fully functional. Car rental companies know this, typically limiting rentals to people aged 25 and over.

Lastly, one of the core needs of all people is unconditional love. While teens can seem rather unlovable with their self focus and rejection of adults, they continue to need our love and support.

Dr. Walsh's website can be accessed at: http://www.mediafamily.org/

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Amazing matches of kids and mentors

We had a blast last Saturday at our two annual summer Kinship picnics (one in Coon Rapids and another in S Mpls.). There were the popular gunny sack races, sponge relays and the most popular event of all, the water balloon toss. Kids matched with their mentors and kids waiting with their family members enjoyed traditional hot dogs, baked beans and watermelon, along with a whole range of potluck foods.
One of the things I was struck with was these two guys, Mike & Kenzie, who where having a great time together both wearing brown t-shirts. I discovered that they didn't plan their wardrobe, but simply seemed to share a common taste in t-shirts. Kinship makes matches between mentors and kids based primarily on interests and geography. Its fun to see just how common some of the interests appear to be!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Elders as mentors

One of our Kinship mentors, Bruce Westphal, soon to be 70, recently noted how much he and his wife have enjoyed starting up their friendship with a 7 year old boy from their community. He's discovered that it is a wonderful way for them to share of their wealth of wisdom and experience, supplementing the relationships they already have with grandchildren. They are encouraging others from their church, Westwood Lutheran in St. Louis Park, to befriend children from a couple of neighboring public elementary schools, Cedar Manor and Aquila.

You can read Pastor Bruce Westphal's story on page two of the Westwood Lutheran's Celebration publication.

Civic Ventures is an organization dedicated to actively engaging people in the second half of life in tackling serious social problems. Their studies of Americans age 50 to 70 indicate:
  • Most see retirement as a time to begin a new chapter in life by being active and involved, starting new activities, and setting new goals.

  • Two-thirds of those age 50 to 54 are interested in taking jobs now or in the future to help improve the quality of life in their communities.

  • More than three-quarters of those who say they'll work in retirement are interested in working to help the poor, the elderly, and people in need.

Nationally MENTOR has just produced a study guide "The wisdom of age" for mentoring programs utilizing older Americans as mentors, and is available for download at the following website, http://www.mentoring.org/news/136/.

Kinship mentoring is an outstanding opportunity to enjoy the benefits of grandparenting without having to go through the much more challenging role of parenting. As our mentors can attest, it also keeps you young!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Unrealistic expectations of the nuclear family

Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we've put it in an impossible situation. - Margaret Mead

During our staff team time today we discussed what the Bible had to say about Kinship. It turns out plenty. In days of old the Hebrew families were much larger than our nuclear ones. The Old Testament references the tribe of Judah, the house of David and the sons of Abraham. Even within these large families outsiders could be adopted, thus resulting in very large groups number into the hundreds. When people were in need they looked to their Kinsman/redeemer to help them out. It is this concept of family upon which Kinship is founded; extending ourselves and our families to look after others in times of need, especially children.

In the Christian tradition, Jesus took these large families up a notch, and challenged all to be "Kinspeople" to others in their time of need, not just those of a similar lineage. He challenged us to put our faith into action though caring about others. Jesus says, Whatsoever you do for these the least of my children, who are members of my family, that you do unto me. (Matthew 25:40)

In those olden days, before unemployment or health insurance or social security, large extended families were vital for looking out for those in their time of need. With this challenging environment it is more important than ever for us to extend ourselves and families. Government support can't do it alone, Uncle Sam is a poor provider of what most of us need most of all, unconditional love. There is a growing demand for the extended family. Thanks to all who are reaching out beyond their nuclear families and becoming “kin” to children and families in need. May you be richly blessed.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A small taste of single parenting

My wife went out of town for a couple of weeks to visit family. This leaves me with my full-time job and parenting responsibilities for our 14 year old daughter. Thankfully our daughter is responsible and capable of taking care of herself during the day.

During this time as a single parent my discretionary time simply disappeared. It has been difficult to find time to take care of the lawn and garden, read the newspaper, check in with friends and family, wash the car, or even walk the dog. I must also confess that our meals haven’t been quite as well balanced as before.

I’m reminded that my small inconvenience pales in comparison to the additional challenges of single parenting when there are financial stressors, young children, neighborhood safety concerns, or perhaps unreliable/no transportation.

For those who are in a position to reach out, I would invite you to consider how you might do something to support a single parent family. Kinship of Greater Minneapolis has 125 kids, ages 5-15, on our waiting list, all eager to have Kinship friends. http://www.kinship.org/.

One of the great things about volunteering is that by giving you also receive, often more than you’re able to give. It is an awesome feeling to know that you can significantly impact the life of a child and his/her family by simply sharing your time and interests. I know that the single parents, who are often doing a heroic job, would greatly appreciate your support.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Kinship kids gardening

Kinship recently partnered with the Minnesota State Horticultural Society to set up a few of our mentors and kids with a garden in a box, http://www.northerngardener.org/general.asp?id=garden-in-a-box.

This is an opportunity for Kinship friends to grow plants that they can later harvest; both vegetables and herbs. We are experimenting with a few of our matches this year with hopes that perhaps next year it might be something we want to replicate on a larger scale.

Thanks to the Minnesota State Horticultural Society for extending this opportunity to Kinship! Please let me know if you might be interested in supporting this effort in the coming year.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Homicides down in Minneapolis

A recent StarTribune article noted that homicides were down a third from the previous year. This is great news! Kinship of Greater Minneapolis is partnering with one of the organizations cited as a possible factor in this decline, The Peace Foundation, http://www.citypeace.org/ In addition to their community outreach the Peace Foundation has also promoted volunteering on the northside, including Kinship mentoring.

When kids have a sense of hope for the future they're far less likely to join gangs, or be engage in violent and life threatening behaviors. Mentoring is one important vehicle for helping young people to envision a brighter future for themselves.

A link to the StarTribune article, "6 months in, and only 6 homicides" follows, http://www.startribune.com/local/49895387.html?elr=KArksUUUoDEy3LGDiO7aiU.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Guns on the Northside

Thursdays I deliver meals on wheels in North Minneapolis. It's a great opportunity for me to put my faith into action on behalf of others. Today while wishing Ora a happy fourth of July I inquired if she was going to see fireworks. She said they already get fireworks in her neighborhood, just across from North High School, but they just don't have the lights. Sadly, gunfire is not uncommon.

A couple of stops later I delivered meals to a stooped Cicero. He comment on how I was dressed nicely. Then he surprised me by noting that I wasn't carrying a gun. I thanked him and wished him a wonderful fourth of July.

This holiday I'm looking forward to fireworks over a lake, the kind with the lights that go with them. I will be reminded however of Ora and Cicero, hoping and trusting that they too will enjoy the fourth.

To learn about volunteering with North Minneapolis Meals on Wheels, visit their website to learn more, http://www.nmmow.org/about.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Cabin privilege

Fourth of July is coming and I’m eager to be heading to my brother and sister-in-law’s cabin. It is a tradition for our family to head over to Wisconsin and enjoy time together with friends and family, while having fun fishing and boating. It’s the highlight of our daughter’s year.

Working in Kinship I’ve become painfully aware that many of the wonderful experiences that I’ve been privileged to enjoy are not things which many kids from disadvantaged circumstances even dare to dream… owning a home, going to college, traveling overseas, the list goes on.

I was reminded about how Kinship can help kids build dream when I heard a story about one of our relationships from years back. A Kinship mentor had a knock on her door from a mom with a young girl in tow. Turns out the mom was the girl she and her husband had mentored years ago, and had just stopped by to give an update on her progress. She told about how when she went to visit her Kinship friends all those years ago she began to dream about owning a home of her own one day. Then she proudly proclaimed, just yesterday, my husband and I closed on a house. Her dream had been realized.

Living in one of the world’s most resourceful nations many of us have had a great deal of privilege. It’s our great duty and opportunity to share that privilege with others who have not had the same kinds of opportunities and encouragement. And who knows, someday we too might have a knock at the door by someone who was blessed by our friendship.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Study on teens lack of hopefulness

Sadly, about 15 percent of teens felt they had a 50-50 chance, or less, to live to the age of 35. Perhaps lacking hope, these teens are more likely to put themselves in danger, take drugs, attempt suicide or have unprotected sex. These findings came from a University of Minnesota study led by Dr. Iris Borowsky, associate professor from the Department of Pediatrics, and appear in the July issue of Pediatrics.

One of the key outcomes of Kinship relationships is the development of optimism. Having an adult friend who takes specific interest in a child’s welfare makes a huge difference in their outlook. I’m reminded by a testimonial by one of our kids, Matt, who recently graduated from William Mitchell College of Law. In his younger years all week long he used to look forward to Saturdays, the day Eric, his Kinship mentor, would come to meet him and play chess. Matt and his wife Stephanie are pictured below.

All kids need at least one caring adult who doesn’t have to ask them if they’ve made their bed in the morning. I’m pleased to report that fully 99% of the kids who responded to Kinship's year-end surveys felt optimistic about their future. That is something to feel good about!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Support for kids from father absent homes

"We fathers need to step up" was the rally cry this past Father's Day from president Barack Obama. He noted the hole in his life that came as the result of his father walking out on his family at age two. Thankfully he had two wonderful grandparents who poured everything they had into helping his mom rear he and his sister.

Kinship's mentoring program works with a great abundance of father absent homes, serving kids with holes in their hearts. Thankfully there are also many caring folk who have chosen to help plug at least a portion of that hole by reaching out and becoming a friend. These individuals, couples and families might help them learn how to ride a bike, play tennis or get their first job. But more important than anything they might teach is the love that is felt by kids who realize that someone cares enough about them to want to volunteer their time with them, simply to be a friend.

While mentors can't replace missing dads, I know that there are scores of kids who's lives have been significantly enhanced by kin relationships - perhaps formal mentors, grandparents, or simply caring neighbors or church members. Thanks to these relationships many kids like Barack Obama, coming from adverse circumstances are able to thrive.

Thanks to all dad's who are doing their best to be their physically, emotionally and spiritually for their children. And a special thanks to all who are able to reach out and include a child from a father absent home. Who knows, you might just be helping to develop a scientist, teacher, preacher, or even president of the United States!