Berks County

A Church-Based Approach to Ending Family Homelessness

Lois’ Story

Lois & Sheri basket

  1. What has  been the most rewarding part of your experience as a mentor? Just  being of assistance to a lovely woman and her wonderful kids;  seeing her kids open up and talk about  themselves, their joys and their troubles; finding a job for the mother that is  a perfect fit – where she not only benefits, but those with whom she works  benefit even more; and gaining a lifelong friendship.  In addition, I had the opportunity to gain  more new friends as I also got to know the fellow people within the mentoring  group.  I have added to my own support  system, should the need arise.
  2. How did you overcome  the challenge of finding time to build a friendship with the family?   Our  group’s mother has as busy a schedule as I do, so we both understand the need  to pounce on any mutually-convenient time to get together, whenever that may  be.  It was necessary to be very flexible  and work around things that came up with absolutely no guilt or hard feelings  assigned if something needed to be changed.   My role is to provide support and relieve stress and never to provide  any additional stress.  Having fellow  members in our group with varying availability made it possible to cover most  all of our mother’s needs.
  3. What kinds of  activities did you do with the mother and/or her children? In  addition to “group” events, I bring dinner to their home for all of them; have little  mini discussions with the kids when I drop things off; and I meet with the  mother on a monthly basis for lunch and conversation.
  4. In what ways did you  see the mentors in your group each contributing something unique to the  mentoring process?   We  have a very diverse group in age, profession and life experience.  Each person offers something unique and  special to the family.  Some are  grandparents who are pros at shopping for teenagers and knowing what they need;  some helped in the job search and resume preparation area; some helped in the  remodeling and repair of the family’s new home; some are retired and can assist  in transportation when needed; some, like me, are contemporaries of the mother  and can share common experiences.
  5. How did your experience  as a mentor change you as a person? I  always believe that I end up gaining much more from the people I supposedly  “help” than they do from me.  To help  relieve stress from someone, give them a sounding board, and mostly to validate  what they are feeling always keeps me grounded and less self-absorbed.  Sharing lives and hearts and minds with  people creates a very warm feeling that helps me sleep well at night.
  6. How did your experience  as a mentor change the way you viewed others?   I’ve  known for a very long time (and continue to remind myself)  that I should never judge someone because of a  label – any of us can be “homeless” in the blink of an eye . . . any of us can  suffer an injustice in the blink of an eye that changes our lives forever and  leaves us feeling hopeless.  We must keep  our minds and our hearts open, remove labels, and get to know someone as an  individual.
  7. If you could give  advice to someone who was starting out as a mentor, what would it be?   Do  it!  You may think that you don’t have  anything special to offer, but each of us is special in our own way.  We should all be walking through life  reaching out our hands to people who are around us.  We will be all the better and enriched for  it.