This Monday, the country commemorated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day with acts of service. It is estimated that for the past 25 years more than 80,000 people have participated in service opportunities in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware annually on MLK Day. It’s no wonder why. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an inspiration and volunteering is not only a way to honor him but an opportunity to give back and to become a more involved member of one’s community. It is also a way in which individuals can inspire others.
At RJLF, we know that firsthand. We see that inspiration every day. Our Mentors have volunteered to be there for our Fellows. They choose to build a relationship, to offer support and to be that one person for a young adult who too often doesn’t have one. They inspire us, their Fellows and those around them who witness their service.
But even more so, our Fellows inspire us with their own commitment to service. Some, as they gain their own footing in a career, look to mentor. However, even more aim to dedicate their lives to service through their careers. We are humbled to be working with young people who want to be nurses, social workers, therapists and more. It is an honor to help serve them as they prepare to serve others.
This year, we encourage you to find more ways to serve. Be a part of the inspiration and the good.
January is traditionally the month of new goals or, often, old goals reignited. We view the changing of the calendar as an opportunity to start again and take strides forward - building off of what we accomplished (or were unable to accomplish) in the year before. The goals may be lofty and long-term or small and achievable. There are no rules to the January reset.
However, that doesn’t mean there can’t be some guidelines to setting goals and working toward them. In Mentoring and at RJLF, we teach and model SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Using this model to set goals, enables individuals to continue taking small steps of success toward long-term goals.
For example, when a Fellow wants to graduate from college, their first goal may be to complete the first semester of their bachelor’s degree by spring 2023, with an average GPA of 3.0. This more specific goal is a key factor in their long-term aim but allows them to focus on something they can achieve in a set and shorter period of time.
Using SMART goals is a great way to work toward your own achievements. Give it a try this month as you determine your 2023 plans. See how it works for you!
January is National Mentoring Month. As a mentoring program, we at RJLF love this opportunity to tell you about all the amazing things that our Mentors have done over the past year and entice you to be a mentor, as well. And don’t worry - we will! January has time for it. However, today, we are asking you to do something first.
Take five minutes, maybe 10. Think about the mentors that you’ve had in your life. Maybe you had a formal mentor. Maybe you had a mentor you didn’t realize was mentoring you until years later - a teacher, a supervisor, a friend. How did they impact your life? What did they bring to it and how, perhaps years later, do they continue to influence you and your decisions?
Now take five more minutes and share with others the impact that mentors have had on your life. Share it with us in the comments below or on Facebook and Instagram. Share it with your own mentees, your children, your partner or your friends. Spread the word on the power of mentoring, and by the end of this month, there will be more mentors.
In 2022, we have had no shortage of reasons to thank you, from your support of our first annual golf outing, to your donations and attendance at our Heart for Change gala and for a myriad of ways in between. Right now is no different. We have been humbled this holiday season by your generosity and willingness to help. You not only enabled us to fulfill the majority of our 17 Fellows’ wishlists (and those of their children) but also ensured that our Fellows’ children had car seats and Christmas decorations when they reached out because their home didn’t feel festive.
We are honored to be a part of your community. Thank you for embracing us always. You have made our holiday season, yet again.
On November 15th, the 8 billionth person on Earth was born. Eight billion. This milestone should make us pause to think not just about the quantity of people who are here but of how we treat each other and the land we ask to support us.
We don’t always succeed at doing what’s best. We don’t always give each other the support and grace needed to live a happy and rewarding life. We can do better.
There are countless examples of where better is needed across the globe, but one such example is youth in foster care in the United States. While best efforts are made to keep children safe and protect them, the system so often falls short. Young people can move from placement to placement and as a result school to school, support network to support network. They may not have the opportunity to feel steady, let alone safe. Once they age out of the system, all too often these young people are on their own. There are not a lot of safety nets in place to catch them.
At the R.J. Leonard Foundation, we strive to do better, to be one of those safety nets, but we also know that there is always room for improvement, especially with 8 billion people on Earth. As we look toward 2023, we commit to continuing to do what we can and to do better for ourselves, our communities, and our 8 billion neighbors.
The R.J. Leonard Foundation’s Holiday Wish Lists are live!
Help us make our Fellow’s holiday season a little merrier and a little brighter by gifting them and their children their wishes this year. You’ll see everything on those lists from the classic toys and video games to kitchen appliances and clothes to gift cards. And yes, we know gift cards aren’t always fun to give, but they are amazing to get! For many of our Fellows, those gift cards help them out with necessities but also give them the autonomy to buy the things they most want or even buy a gift for someone else.
Thank you in advance for your generosity and continued support! Happy Holidays!
Thanksgiving is the time of year when we are reminded to be grateful. But in truth, at the R.J. Leonard Foundation, we don’t need a holiday to remind us. Every day, our community, our Fellows, our Mentors, our Board give us the opportunity to be thankful for them and for all they do. Today is no different.
Thank you for allowing us to have 365 days filled with gratitude! Happy Thanksgiving!
Change is hard, and we at RJLF are in the middle of some pretty big changes. Our Executive Director for the past three years - Joelle Pitts - has stepped down to pursue other opportunities. We are so happy for her and thrilled that she will remain on the board of RJLF despite no longer being our executive director. Anyone who has worked with Joelle knows what an asset she is to the Foundation and all of our Fellows. She will be sorely missed but not gone.
Program Director Sue Coyle will be stepping into Joelle’s shoes as interim executive director and we’ll be working to hire a new program director in the meantime. Through it all, our Fellows will still need to have their needs met, to have holiday meals and gifts delivered and to feel supported despite the transitions in action.
We know that we can do it. We are committed to doing it. We know you are too. We want to thank you in advance for your continued support through our transition and for, as always, believing in the Foundation and the success of our Fellows!
It’s hard to know what you’re going to do with your life when you’re 18 or 21 (or, let’s be honest, at any age). Yet that’s exactly what we ask teenagers to do when they apply and commit to colleges. Choose a major. Choose a direction. Choose the rest of your life.
Perhaps that’s a bit dramatic. Majors can change, after all, and there’s no end to stories about second and third careers. However, that weightiness is exactly how it feels when you’re 18. It’s heavy, even more so when you are a young person without support, without a network to fall back on when you’ve realized an error or are just feeling unsure. Taking a risk, particularly one as expensive as college, can seem like too much of a leap.
At the R.J. Leonard Foundation, we try to help young people without the traditional foundation of support think through such big decisions so that college doesn’t feel like a risk too big too take. Rather it’s an opportunity to venture down a path filled with multiple possibilities and achieve the success that is dreamed of. If you would like to be a part of helping the R.J. Leonard Foundation, visit us at www.rjleonardfoundation.org.
And as a reminder: College application deadlines are looming. Be kind to your seniors.
October has ended. The cobwebs are coming down and the wreaths are going up. That may not be the case in your house just yet, but the truth is the holidays are right around the corner. We are currently collecting gift lists and organizing our holiday party at RJLF. That means, pretty soon, we’re going to need you. Year after year you help us fulfill the wishes of our Fellows and their children so that they, too, can have a holiday season of wonder!
Buying one or two or three gifts may not seem like a lot to you, but to our Fellows, it’s the world. Just last year, one of our Fellows told us that she had not gotten a Christmas gift since leaving foster care. She’s currently 27 years old. You make a difference. This makes a difference.
Keep your eyes out for Amazon wishlists and other ways to help as we wind down 2022 with festivity and good cheer!