New program, Mentoring South East, will make it easier for youth to connect with adult allies

A group of St. Lawrence College students try their hand at a ring toss booth promoting ‘Mentoring South East,’ the new collaboration between Big Brothers Big Sisters of KFL&A, Youth Diversion, and BGC South East. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

A collaborative venture among three key child and youth charities in Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox, and Addington (KFL&A) — Big Brothers Big Sisters of KFL&A, Youth Diversion, and BGC (formerly Boys and Girls Club) South East — launched on Friday, Mar. 31, 2023, with a special promotional event at St. Lawrence College.

Made possible thanks to a $150,000 ‘Resilient Communities Fund’ grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) received by Big Brothers Big Sisters of KFL&A, ‘Mentoring South East’ will connect adult volunteers to mentoring programs that support the growth and development of children and youth in need. According to the organizers, the collaboration will improve the program quality, processes, and human resource effectiveness of the member agencies, through the sharing of knowledge among long-standing and experienced local service providers.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of KFL&A, a key mentoring organization for more than 50 years locally, has been joined by Youth Diversion and BGC South East to seek innovative ways to connect different community members with mentoring opportunities that fit the interests and availability of each volunteer.

Shawn Quigley, Executive Director of Youth Diversion, challenged the audience at the launch: “I want you to think back to a time when somebody said or did something that changed the course of your life forever. Chances are, that person probably doesn’t know they had that level of impact on you. That’s the power of mentoring. And that’s what we need in our community: to be able to support children and youth in their development.”

“We know [that] the difference between a successful young person and an unsuccessful young person, almost 50 per cent of the time, is one positive adult ally in [their] life,” Quigley continued. “And we also know that if we want to mitigate the impact of early childhood trauma, introducing that young person to one positive adult ally will make a huge difference in their life.”

For these three agencies, said Quigley, coming together was “a no-brainer. When you think about it, there are over 125 years of experience running mentoring programs between the three agencies. It’s how we do more with less. It’s how we maximize our resources. And, at the end of the day, it’s how we provide opportunities for people in our community.”

To that end, the collaborative program has created an online platform where community members interested in volunteering as a mentor can browse different programs that address a range of child and youth needs. Volunteers select their areas of interest, location, time availability, and length of commitment; then the search feature generates suggestions for programs that match their specific selections.

Ted Hsu, MPP for Kingston and the Islands, was on hand to celebrate the new venture and commented, “A supportive mentor can make a world of difference in the life of a young person, helping them navigate challenges and pursue opportunities to attain their greatest potential. I am happy to see that Big Brothers Big Sisters has received the Ontario Trillium Foundation grant to support the creation of Mentoring South East.”

Ted Hsu, MPP for Kingston and the Islands, congratulated the three charities for their collaborative effort to improve the lives of youth in KFL&A. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

“The impact of this Ontario Trillium Foundation grant cannot be overstated,” added Kylie Filion, Supervisor at Big Brothers Big Sisters of KFL&A. “This year, we are seeing the highest need in the last seven years. With this record rise, we sought to create more efficient processes for recruitment and intake of interested volunteers. Thanks to the OTF grant, this promising new recruitment tool will help us find mentors in new areas of service, such as South Frontenac and Napanee.”

Mentoring South East’s new website is now live and accepting volunteer applications. Opportunities are available for both adult and youth volunteers.

The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF), an agency of the Government of Ontario and one of Canada’s leading grant foundations, is currently celebrating 40 years of grantmaking in Ontario and making a lasting impact in communities. According to the release, last year alone, OTF invested nearly $209 million into 2,042 community projects and partnerships, which included funding for the Government of Ontario’s Community Building Fund. Visit the Ontario Trillium Foundation website to learn more.

With files from Jessica Foley.

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