News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Circle of Friends is a ‘Community Champion’

Circle of Friends (COF) is helping to create a Connected Sisters. That earned the volunteer-based nonprofit here in Sisters “Community Champion” recognition from the City’s Vision Implementation Team.

Since 2011, COF has been offering critical services to at-risk children and teens in Sisters Country through long-term mentorships with committed volunteers. These mentorships are designed to help end the cycle of poverty experienced by youth and families by providing opportunities for building life skills, positive relationships, academic support, social and emotional development, independent decision making and more.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, COF joyfully celebrated all the milestones their 47 children and teens experienced during the pandemic to help maintain a sense of normalcy and hope. Their 23 mentors have made and delivered birthday cakes, celebrated a youth becoming a newly permitted driver, cheered for a budding young artist being selected to work on a mural at Sisters Middle School, championed a mentor coming to the clubhouse to provide much-needed haircuts, supported distance and in-person school successes, and found ways to keep children active and involved in creative and fun ways.

Duncan and Cindy Campbell, who have a home in Sisters, were the driving force behind building resilient children by founding COF in 2011. They brought to the table their wisdom and experience from launching a similar mentoring program, Friends of the Children, in Portland in 1993.

According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, “The single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship.”

Mentoring, at its core, guarantees young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges, and makes them feel like they matter. Ultimately, mentoring connects a young person to personal growth and development, and social and economic opportunity. Yet one in three young people will grow up without this critical asset.

Here in Sisters, there is COF. Mentors are dedicated volunteers who believe all youth have the capacity to pursue meaningful lives. They help give children the tools and support to achieve their fullest potential. Mentors are professionally trained to aid youth in developing resiliency through learning and teaching the COF nine core assets. To find out more about becoming a mentor, call 541-588-6445.

The organization underwent a leadership change in 2020 when Nicole Swisher Woodson accepted the position of executive director. She and her family returned to Oregon, and Sisters, after living in Texas for the past 22 years. Woodson has 20 years of special-education teaching experience and 15 years of experience as a foster parent. She also served as a Region Foster Parent Advocate representing and serving 30 counties and nearly 5,000 children in the central Texas region.

On Wednesday, September 29, COF will be hosting a dedication of their forever home, Campbell House, made possible with the community’s support of their capital campaign, supported by donations from several foundations as well as individuals.

It is with the support of the community that COF is able to provide their vital services. With the help of a grant from the Roundhouse Foundation, COF purchased a new Integrated Flat Panel (IFP) for the Campbell House. This technology helps engage youth with interactive touchscreen capability, bringing concepts and activities to life and allowing for increased access to transformative experiences and mentoring.

Donated windows and sliding doors, installed by Newport Construction, bring light into the Campbell House that is enjoyed by the youth, volunteers, and mentors. The space allows for more programming opportunities, and a new ramp and decking provides easier access to the yard and building.

“I would like to thank the community for their continued support of our programs and our children. Together we really are transforming lives, one child at a time,” said Woodson.

A collaboration with the Sisters History Museum helped develop the first annual scavenger hunt, celebrating the history of Sisters. Anyone with a smartphone can play after making a donation for which a confirmation will be sent with the QR code instructions on how to play.

The route of the scavenger hunt is approximately 1.6 miles and could take from 45 minutes to two hours to complete. Entrants may participate on their own or with a group of friends or family. Just one smartphone is needed to complete the hunt. Participants will be automatically entered to win a gift basket valued at $200 at the end of the summer. Register by going to the COF website.

Other summer programs will include outreach events at Campbell House in collaboration with the Deschutes Public Library Sisters branch.

Through innovative high-quality programming and ongoing support, COF is helping Sisters become a more connected and resilient community one child at a time, making them the perfect choice to be named Connected Community Champions.

 

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