January is National Mentoring Month, and mentorship is key here at Denver Rescue Mission. Mentors at the Mission are long-term volunteers who provide relational, emotional and spiritual support to men, women, youth, and families participating in Mission programs. They are an essential component of our program participants’ growth, not only during their time at the Mission, but also in maintaining self-sufficiency beyond program completion.

Are you interested in learning more about making a direct impact in someone’s life?

Donna Brooks, Mentor Coordinator at the Mission, shares more about the process, requirements and rewarding experience that becoming a mentor has to offer:  

Will you describe the various mentorship opportunities available at the Mission?

Mentorship is offered to all adults in the Mission’s STAR Transitional Program and New Life Program, enabling them to be engaged with a mutually supportive community. We offer mentorship to the children and teenagers whose parents are part of the STAR Transitional Program through a partnership with Save Our Youth. In addition, we provide group mentoring to families who are part of our Family Refugee Services (FRS) to assist them with practical needs and help them positively transition into their new communities. We also offer group mentoring to families and seniors who are moving into permanent housing as part of our Family Rescue Ministry (FRM).

How do mentors typically get paired with mentees? 

After signing up online, potential mentors are invited for an in-person interview where they share about their gifts, talents, passions, and previous volunteer experience. They also fill out a brief questionnaire that helps us match them with a mentee. Once they are approved, we schedule a two-hour orientation and training session to fully prepare them for the task at hand. We also conduct interviews with the mentees to hear where they are from and to get more information about their family, job, church, spiritual journey, hobbies, interests, and goals. When pairing mentors and mentees, I pray and invite the Holy Spirit to help guide me with the process.

What is typically expected of mentors once they are assigned to their mentees?

Mentors come alongside the participants and meet them where they are. Some mentors visit and talk right here at The Crossing, the Mission’s residential program facility, and they go over the mentee’s goals, hopes and dreams for the future. Some choose to do activities with their mentees, such as hiking or playing pickle ball. Others like to meet up for coffee or a meal.

What is the time commitment when becoming a mentor?

At minimum, we ask for a one-hour, face-to-face meeting every other week and frequent responsive communication at other times through phone or email. For FRS and FRM, group mentoring teams meet with their families once a month for a few hours at a time.

What is the duration of a mentor/mentee setup?

The average duration that a mentor meets with his or her mentee is 6-9 months or the length of the participant’s time in a program. When participants graduate, they are encouraged to continue meeting with their mentors, but this is optional.  

What are some examples of activities that mentors and mentees participate in together? 

I’ve mentioned some, but what I’ve seen really does run the gamut: coloring, playing chess, researching and visiting rental apartments, going over resumes, hiking, crocheting, serving at other nonprofits, and of course, eating.  

In what other ways do mentors support their mentees?

Some mentees want help getting back into the working world, so mentors will talk through options for employment, help them with networking and explore the pros and cons of certain jobs and careers. 

What do you think is the most challenging part about being a mentor?

We all have a story, and sometimes the stories are so different between mentors and mentees that it can be challenging. In most cases though, that is what strengthens and builds up the relationship. 

What has been the most rewarding part about being a mentor coordinator for the Mission?

The most rewarding part is seeing friendships form. During the first meeting with the mentor and mentee, it can sometimes be awkward as I introduce two strangers with the goal of forming a friendship. Even those awkward starts can blossom into ongoing meaningful relationships. I am honored to be a part of the lives of the participants and volunteers. Isolation can be so detrimental to a full and complete life, and mentorship builds such strong communities.  

For more information about mentorship at the Mission, visit our Change Maker page or contact us online.

Donna Brooks is the mentor coordinator for the Mission’s STAR Transitional Program and New Life Program. In her role, she recruits, interviews, trains, and supports mentors to provide an impactful experience for the mentors and their mentees.