Circle of Friends has received a $17,500 grant from the Robert Chandler Fund, Lori and Les Cooper Fund and Fred W. Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation to increase the number of at-risk children served by trained volunteer mentors.
The mission of Circle of Friends is to provide the most vulnerable children a loving, caring, nurturing, and sustained relationship with an adult role-model who teaches positive values and has attainable expectations for each child in order that they will become healthy, productive members of the community.
The non-profit also has a new location in an office suite on the corner of Hood Avenue and Pine Street.
"This gave us a three-year lease, which makes us a home for a while," said Circle of Friends Executive Director Beth Hanson.
The mentors helped put together and decorate the space, making it a lively spot to get together for activities, as well as providing administrative offices for the organization.
"They're allowed to come here ... they come and go as they please. Multiple pairs come in some and interact," Hanson said.
One day last week there were seven pairs of kids and mentors in the building, which Hanson said was "crazy fun."
Circle of Friends has now paired 16 kids with mentors.
Mentorship is a significant commitment, Hanson noted in an earlier interview with The Nugget.
"It's a three-month process before they're actually matched," she said.
That process includes a background check. Then the commitment really begins. Circle of Friends is based around mentorship that lasts from the first years of school all the way through high school. Mentors help the children develop life skills and build social skills, support them in school and accompany them in their communities. Activities can range from working on homework to cooking healthy meals to practicing a musical instrument or playing sports and going on outings.
"Quality one-on-one time is the key thing," Hanson said.
Students who would benefit from the program are identified by teachers or by Sisters Family Access Network. The need is larger than many in Sisters might suppose. Some five to 10 students come into Sisters schools each year who have significant needs.
Circle of Friends grew out of the principles that drove Friends of the Children, which was founded in 1993 by now-Sisters-resident Duncan Campbell. Campbell overcame a challenging childhood and vowed to help other children do the same.
Research into outcomes from Friends of the Children demonstrates that the most important predictor of a child's success is the presence of a positive adult role-model in their life.