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,

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,

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.