January is National Mentoring Month - an opportunity for us all to reflect on the impact mentoring has had on our lives. At the R.J. Leonard Foundation, we are fortunate to see first hand how powerful mentoring can be - on both the mentee and the mentor. It is life changing. As they build and maintain their relationships, mentors and mentees are able to grow and learn, while also having fun!
This month, we encourage you to take the time to reflect on how mentoring has affected your life. Whether a formal or informal relationship, how have you been supported and how have you supported others? We think you’ll be surprised by what an impact both roles have had on you.
And if you’d like to take the next step into a formal mentoring relationship, contact us.
Happy Mentoring Month!
I recently asked a new Fellow how others would describe her. She started with “awkward”. Each descriptor afterward was increasingly negative. Then, I asked her how the person who referred her would describe her. “Amazing and resilient,” she said after a pause.
Amazing and resilient.
The young people that we work with at RJLF are often faced with a lifetime of negativity - told that they are not enough, that their responses to trauma are unacceptable, that they will amount to very little. Those messages have a way of dominating the narrative. They become how a young person defines themself.
But every once in a while, there is a person who sees them differently and who takes the time to tell them that - to tell them about the good, the promise and the possibilities that exist inside. Their support may not drown out the negative messaging, at least not right away, but it will become a new voice in the back of a young person’s head. Over time, it may encourage the young person to define themselves differently, perhaps even as amazing and resilient.
The fall semester is ending, with finals either already here or looming in the very near future. Within the next week or so, dorm rooms will empty out as everyone returns home for the holidays and winter break.
But where do young adults in or recently out of foster care go if they don’t have a permanent home?
The truth is, it varies. They may go to an old foster family, to their bio family or to a friend’s home. They may stay in an off campus apartment or find a cheap housing option near school or near their hometown. Regardless, the point is that the end of the semester is not as simple as packing up a duffel bag and hopping on the turnpike. For many, there is a great deal of uncertainty and, potentially, loneliness.
There’s not a quick solution to this problem, but it is a good reminder that young people aging out of foster care need support in myriad ways - at the holidays and year round. If you want to be a part of that support, contact the R.J. Leonard Foundation. More information is available here.
“I’ve never really had a Christmas”
This is what one of RJLF’s newer Fellows told us when we asked her for a wishlist this year. She shared that her only experience with receiving Christmas gifts (she celebrates) had been at a youth shelter while in foster care. Before and since then, she and her family just hadn’t had the resources to exchange presents.
This isn’t a unique circumstance.
Holiday gift exchanges are a tradition most of us take for granted, even while so many are unable to take part.
If you are able, this year help RJLF grant the wishes of our Fellows and their children. Their wish lists are linked here.
Last week, we loaded two SUVs up to the brim with boxes and bags of Thanksgiving food, extra groceries, gift cards and homemade apple bread - plus some baby clothes and toys for good measure. The amount was overwhelming but, in a way, not unexpected. Having worked with the Vine at Doylestown United Methodist Church before, we knew that they would go above and beyond for our Fellows this season. And they did. We could not be more grateful for the Thanksgiving meals (and more) that they provided to RJLF.
Gratitude is the theme for this week, as we look toward Thanksgiving tomorrow. And it is not just the Vine that we are grateful to have. It is our entire community, made up of people and organizations who don’t hesitate to help when asked and most often offer before we can ask. We are incredibly thankful to have the family that we do. Thank you.
Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate.
Inflation is at a 31 year high. Prices for everything from gas to groceries are jumping. Headlines bemoan a more expensive Thanksgiving dinner and drive to Grandma’s afterward. Christmas will use up more than a few pennies extra, the media alerts.
But the focus on holidays rather than the necessities costing more negates the real impact of today’s inflation.
Ten cents more a gallon at the gas pump or ten dollars more per week at the grocery store might be an annoyance for those in the upper middle class and above, but it won’t break the bank. That’s not true for those who are already struggling. When a monthly budget is tight, if not already in the red, even just a few more dollars per month is nearly impossible to pull off. Cuts will have to be made - cuts to things that are necessary like food, clothes for growing children and the money set aside for commuting, bills, rent. That doesn’t even consider “the extras” that a family would love to provide at this time of year.
How do you have a holiday when you can’t afford the every day?
If you’re able, consider giving to a local nonprofit in your area to help ease the burden of rising prices this month. The R.J. Leonard Foundation partners with some amazing organizations, including One Simple Wish and The Vine at Doylestown United Methodist Church. They do a lot to help individuals and families in need. And of course, you can always donate to the R.J. Leonard Foundation here.
A Fellow recently shared that they had changed doctors and that the first visit with their new physician had gone really well. The new doctor hadn’t given a different diagnosis or changed the treatment plan. The outcome of the appointment was the same as it would have been at the previous practice. However, this doctor had taken the time to listen to the Fellow’s concerns, to walk through the information with them and to explain the diagnosis. The doctor had taken the time to see and hear the Fellow as an individual.
That is huge.
Being seen as an individual is a privilege that many youth in foster care are not afforded through their time in the system, their time in school and even afterward as young adults. They are so commonly talked about as a statistic, an example of what could go wrong or a pillar of inspiration. Even the idea that we should want to “hear their story” tarnishes the concept of getting to know someone as a person first. And so they get used to it.
But no one should become accustomed to not being seen or heard as an individual. We must take the time to ensure that we truly see and hear the people before us, no matter the setting, no matter the cause.
2021 was yet another year of change, another year in which we could not revert back to the old normal. And so we asked you to join us both in person and online for our Heart for Change gala. On October 28th, you did just that with enormous generosity, reminding us yet again that while some things may change, our community, our family remains the same.
Thank you for coming together to support our Fellows and our Foundation. We do not know what this next year will bring but one thing we can be certain of is that through it all, we will be overwhelmingly grateful to have you with us.
Want to show your support for the R.J. Leonard Foundation and also be entered into the running for great prizes? Good news, for a limited time only, you can do just that. Here’s how:
First, invest in our young people - giving them the chances they deserve - by becoming a sustaining RJLF donor through our monthly giving club Friends Launching Futures.
By setting up a recurring monthly donation in the amount of your choice, you help ensure that RJLF’s Fellows have access to the financial assistance they need to meet their goals. It can be as little as $10 a month or as much as your finances allow. Every little bit helps.
Once you do that, for a limited time only, between now and our gala on October 28th, you will automatically be entered into the gala’s Chance Auction. We have four amazing prizes, and you’ll have the chance to win each one.
You get one ticket for each prize with every FLF contribution. BUT the more you give, the more you get! See below to see how many entries you could earn!
Don’t miss out. Sign up for Friends Launching Futures today!