Three Stories of Talbot Mentors

Naturally, all children and adults are unique.  Recognizing the differences and similarities is a skill in which Talbot Mentors is well practiced.  Matching a caring, committed, friendly adult with a child who is in need or at high risk is Talbot Mentors (TM) purpose.  Here are three stories of very different adults who have committed to being a constant presence in multiple children’s lives. (Mentees’ names are changed to respect their privacy.)

Terry Harwood (left), Merrilie Ford, and Jim Reed

Merrilie Ford

Merrilie, a Real Estate agent in Talbot County for 33 years, loves her profession as well as volunteering.  Fifteen years ago, with Character Counts, it was brought to her attention that a 4th grade boy, Mike (TM no longer matches opposite sexes) wanted someone to help him with his passion for singing.  “He was a really grand kid and his mother did a lot with him, especially with music.”  Unfortunately, she had a heart problem and went to a hospital in Baltimore.  Merrilie took Mike to see her and that was the last time he saw his mom.  

During their time together, Merrilie and Mike would go frequently to the Academy Art Museum. “We would look at the art, but, mainly we would sit and talk on ‘our talking bench’.”   Coming to her house for dinner she taught him to set the table, and he said this simple thing was very helpful.  Mike, now 24 years old, occasionally emails and talks on the phone.

Merrilie’s second Mentee, 12 yr old Sara (now 24), “hit it off right away” and to this day they can talk about anything!  Luckily, Sara came from a strong family and has a wonderful grandmother.  Merrilie said “it was the normal, everyday things we do in life like going to the post office that Sara thought were fun and informative. The normal everyday living activities some kids just don’t get to experience for whatever reason – may it be lack of transportation, parents don’t have the time, or absence of extended family.”

Merrilie knew Sara loved art, so she took her to Washington, DC to see art galleries and museums. Merrilie asked if she wanted to go to a Mexican restaurant, but Sara announced she didn’t like that kind of food.  Merrilie talked her into trying the best Mexican restaurant in Washington and, consequently, Sara fell in love with Mexican food.  This lesson taught Sara that she has other “choices” and the courage to try new things.  They also took an exciting trip to New York City – lunch on Madison Ave, walking through wall-to-wall people on 57th St and down 5th Avenue, whereupon Sara exclaimed “THIS is New York!”.  

After high school, Sara got an AmeriCorps job at the Talbot Mentors’ office for over a year, and then they offered her part-time employment. Before her job started she and a good friend took a month-long road trip to see the United States – all the way to the West Coast and back.  With the TM job responsibilities and fulfilling her passion for art, she also decided she has enough time to become a Mentor herself to a six-year-old.  Today, Merrilie keeps in touch by asking Sara to help her with things that young people are particularly connected with, like computers.

Yes, Merrilie says “I’m excited to be a Mentor again – to a 14-year old – a teenager.  Not having children of my own, rarely seeing my nieces and not having family close by, TM has given me a broader family and a support system.  Mentors and Mentees I’ve come to know as friends are some of the nicest people that I wouldn’t otherwise have met.  Mentoring is way for me to have a youth experience in my life and it keeps my finger in the community of kids.”.  Knowing she has a good support system with Talbot Mentors and years of experience, she looks forward to a new mentee.

Jim Reed

Ten years ago, upon retirement as a general contractor, good friends involved with TM suggested that Jim become a Mentor to a child. Jim’s first Mentee, Tony, 12-years-old, had a father who was only occasionally present in his life. Tony had waited on the TM list for two years before Jim came along.  After five years, Tony’s father returned to the family and it was decided that he no longer needed a Mentor. In time, unfortunately, Tony’s especially close grandfather died and Tony began spiraling downhill.  Jim did his best to meet with him for dinner and talk on the phone.  Recently he ran into Tony’s mom in the store, and she tearfully thanked Jim for being her son’s Mentor.

After Jim and Tony’s “official” match ended, nine-year-old Ricky was matched with Jim and they were together for a total of seven years.  Within the fifth year, Ricky’s father rejoined the family and they moved to the northernmost part of the Eastern Shore.  Heartened to learn that Ricky’s deepest regret about the relocation was “We can’t be Mentor and mentee anymore.”  Committed to making the weekly over-an-hour drive, Jim continued their relationship.   Eventually Ricky moved back to Easton and as a teenager he began to get into trouble, both in school and out.  Ricky’s family decided he should live with an out-of-state relative so the official Mentor/Mentee match was closed.  Today at almost 18, Ricky works full time with a local landscape company and Jim still meets him for dinners.

After the “official” end of this last match, Jim told Natalie Costanzo, then the TM Executive Director, that he was going to take six months off before being matched again.  Within two weeks she reported that she had the perfect Mentee for him – “a great ten-year-old.”  Bobby has been his Mentee for the past six months and Jim says “We are having a really good time together.”

For Jim “the official Mentor/Mentee relationships might end at high school graduation, but a good portion of the relationship continues to this day because I have become an adult friend to a young person who can benefit from having one.” Jim swears that “as a Mentor, he gets far more from it than the Mentees do.”  He feels “it is an excellent use of my time and it has been a pleasure in the long run.”  He also knows each Mentor/Mentee relationship is unique.

Terry Harwood

At one time Terry supervised 6,000 employees in the hotel business. Corporate life is stressful. Mentoring is fun.  In 1988 he started Mentoring at-risk youth as a trustee at Living Classrooms Foundation in Baltimore, a hands-on educational enrichment and job training program. Now retired from the corporate world, he is having fun (“being goofy”) as a teammate with youth here in Talbot County.  

When he moved to Easton in 2002, he first became involved with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) as a volunteer, a youth leader and a care provider. Terry’s first Talbot Mentor match was in 2004-5; four other young men followed over the next 12 years. Terry enjoys remaining a Mentor to all of them. When being together with a Mentee he enjoys asking the question “What works for YOU and why?” Listening to the answers, he learns what is meaningful for them to do together: activity today, career, school programs, family, teamwork.   Teamwork with his Mentees is fostered by meeting with them regularly.  He found he also spent time helping their parents find jobs, helped the Mentees with college scholarships, talked about career choices and job applications and interviews.  “Sometimes we just walked around town to see what is behind the doors of businesses.”  

As the kids “age out” at 18, Terry has continued their relationships as well as relationships with their parents and advisors. Terry introduces the concept of “listen, learn and love as a powerful tool for the Mentee to embrace. Listen to another person. Learn from that person. Love that person by being a teammate in their success.”

By phone or in person, he asks his Mentees questions to help them make a plan for the “next baby-step”.  In Terry’s professional experience the “next baby-step” is particularly important. It conveys a learning to help the Mentee better his practical, emotional and spiritual life. Terry feels he is doing what the “Lord gives me to do for His children.”

If being a Mentor is of interest to you, or perhaps someone you know, please feel free to contact Talbot Mentors at 410-770-5999 or go to: http://talbotmentors.org/  There are a number of children waiting for a special friend, possibly you.

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