A poster hanging near the water fountain in my gym features a muscular woman lifting weights. The text reads, “Macho is not a gender thing.” Passing that poster on so many mornings before starting my work day, I have thought, “Neither is volunteerism.” And yet, when it comes to social service, female volunteers seem to be the norm, suggesting that perhaps volunteering is a “gender thing.” (http://www.nationalserviceresources.org/files/legacy/filemanager/download/NatlServFellows/blackman_s.pdf)This is an introduction to a 59 page guide on how to recruit male volunteers. I never knew there was such a guide, and honestly naively never knew there was a need. In my life I was encouraged to volunteer; asked to use my gifts as a way to serve others. It’s been something I have chosen for my life because I was so fulfilled by my first volunteering experience and am unashamed to admit that I’m addicted to the rewards I get. But, I have to say that I wasn’t pushed by my mom, or the women in my life to go out there and do good, but it was the men I’ve been influenced by that have made me feel as if volunteering is necessary. It was my next door neighbor’s father, my (male) school counselor, my youth minister that taught me the importance of working for something more valuable than a dollar earned. I suppose this is why when I first started at Tahoe Youth and Family Services I figured it was just a season that our mentor coordinator couldn’t find enough male mentors. I thought we just needed to get the word out. So I got a little understanding of the program and her outreach efforts. The mentor program, as it is funded now, is a service that pairs a child with an adult of the same gender to develop more positive experiences. The child has a parent or family member who has been or currently is in jail. These are kids who really need to see adults as trustworthy, because the adults in their lives have made choices that have put them in situations that are unhappy, scary, and sometimes dangerous. Our mentor coordinator matches adults based on their interest the reasons they chose to volunteer, and their feelings about kids. I’m impressed every time I see a pair because the child and adult are always so perfect for each other. In search of new mentors Eli has gone to fire station meetings, police department meetings; she’s mingled with probation officers and several other groups that focus on serving others. None of them have applied with us. What types of volunteers do we get? Women, they see the flyers at the gym, restaurants, and community gathering places. She also hangs out at the farmers market in the summer, which has been known to bring in some men and women. I think that the most frustrating issue for all of us at the agency who have been putting the word out about the mentor program and the need for male volunteers is the fact that we usually have female adults waiting for female children, but sadly male children waiting to be matched with male adults. They wait, and wait, and wait. Currently there are 12 little boys waiting. I’m a mentor myself; all it requires of me is an hour a week and a commitment of a year to this child’s life. AS a single mom even that one hour can be difficult to schedule, but I’m always glad I have that time with my little girl. I’ve taken her swimming, shopping, to the movies, to the bookstore, and this week I can’t wait to get out pedicures! She’s such a happy girl despite all of her hardships. At 7 I sometimes feel like she’s too serious, but as soon as we get tiaras and wands on we both get to be silly and have fun if only for that short time. I need that respite in my life, and so does she. I think that everyone should get this experience, especially the little boys!
Please contact me if you are interested at Heather@Mirror242.com

Male Volunteers Needed

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