Traverse City Record-Eagle

Our Town

September 13, 2010

'Trailblazing' program mentors adults

Participant says, 'Mentor just kind of guides me along'

TRAVERSE CITY — When her daughter was born 15 months ago, Breanne knew she needed to make changes.

Just 20 years old, she dropped her "teenager" lifestyle and became wise beyond her years. Looking ahead, Breanne realized she needed a steady career that would provide for herself and her daughter. While her family was supportive, she started dreaming of providing a home one day for her daughter, not just renting.

Unfortunately, fear held her back.

"I didn't even know where to start and was too scared to do it on my own," said Breanne.

About four months ago, Breanne found the Family Partnership mentoring program and began putting the pieces of her future together. She connected with Pat Gorney, a volunteer mentor with the program based at the Presbyterian Church. The two hit it off, meeting weekly to both talk and strategize.

In a short time, Breanne was back in school studying toward a nursing degree and working with a math tutor. She also is learning how to budget and save with a specific goal of qualifying for a Habitat for Humanity home.

When she lost her job as a nursing assistant and things went "downhill really quickly," Gorney was right there to help. With her mentor's support and connections, Breanne soon found another position.

"My mentor just kind of guides me along," said Breanne. "(She's) just showing me so many resources out there. I started setting goals, taking it one step at a time, but it's amazing how quickly one step at a time can go."

Encouraging life-changing steps is the essence of Family Partnership. Launched in 2005 as an ecumenical mentoring program, Family Partnership currently has 17 matches; the program's high reached 21 matches.

Family Partnership kicked off as an interest group after a Poverty Reduction Initiative Poverty Summit; an official board formed in March of 2006. Four churches besides The Presbyterian Church participate on the board or have members serving as mentors: Traverse Bay United Methodist Church, St. Francis Catholic Church, Central United Methodist and Faith Reformed Church.

As fiscal sponsor, The Presbyterian Church provides 90 percent of the funding. Regular contributions to the program now come from St. Francis, Faith Reformed and Central United Methodist, a crucial step in the program's future.

"The goal — and a rather urgent one — is to make this program truly supported by the larger faith community, both financially and also by contributing mentors, partners, committee and board members," said Director Pat Voice.

Referrals are welcome from clergy members, health professionals, therapists and social workers. Other human-service agencies also guide people to Family Partnership; Breanne learned about it during a visit to the Baby Pantry.

"Our intent is to work with people long term," said Voice, who works hard to establish successful matches between partners. "If the partnership works, it does stick and we do have some partners mentoring for their fourth year."

Family Partnership's unique approach — Voice deems it trailblazing — is that it targets adults for help.

"There's Big Brothers and Big Sisters for boys and girls, but for adults we have nothing," said Pat Gorney, who also serves as a board member of Family Partnership and has been with the program since the beginning.

For more information on the Family Partnership mentoring program, call 946-5680 or visit www.familypartnershipmentoring.org.

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