12/19/04 — WARM Hearts mentor matches tell their stories

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WARM Hearts mentor matches tell their stories

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 19, 2004 2:01 AM

Cleo Trigones earned her college degree at age 58.

At 72, she received a two-year degree in early childhood education at Wayne Community College, and she continues to take music classes there.

Now, at age 75, she says her biggest desire is completing a degree in early childhood education at Mount Olive College.

She enjoys volunteering as a foster grandparent during the week in the preschool program at the Family Y, but says weekends are particularly lonely. With no family in the area, she has thought often about what was missing.

When the WARM Hearts mentor program began at the Family Y nearly two years ago, Ms. Trigones said, she would periodically ask Director Vanessa Spiron about it. Being on a tight budget, though, she hesitated to take on the challenge.

Then one day at church, that changed. "I was in children's church," she said. "This young lady came over. She looked at me and I looked at her.

"She hugged me and said, 'I'm Kari and I'm adopted.'"

From that day on, Ms. Trigones said, "the wheels kept on turning." The young girl's words stayed with Ms. Trigones.

In August, she was ready to commit. She went back to Mrs. Spiron and said "I'm ready."

She knew exactly whom she would choose.

"She just touched my heart," she said of 11-year-old Kari Oliver.

Kari's parents agreed to allow Kari to participate.

The sixth-grader spends alternate weekends with Ms. Trigones. It is a quiet contrast to Kari's Grantham home, where there are nine children, six of them adopted.

The two spend time decorating Ms. Trigones' apartment and say they have enjoyed watching the "Princess Diaries" movies.

"She is my princess," Ms. Trigones said of Kari.

"I live alone and my weekends are so empty," she added. "I just needed to be with somebody and have somebody in my life."

On Thanksgiving, Ms. Trigones was invited to spend the day at the Olivers' home.

"It was very happy," she said. "I was very comfortable. I even fell asleep after dinner."

Kari said she has also enjoyed the relationship with her mentor.

"She's nice," she said. "She's loving and she's caring."

Quandaneshia Kornegay had never been out of Goldsboro until she was invited to go with her mentor this year.

Airman 1st Class Amanda Logan has been stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base for two years. She had volunteered in the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program back home in Morganton and enjoyed it.

"Mentoring meant spending time giving a little bit back to the community," she said. She decided to do it again here, and in July 2003, she was matched with Quandaneshia.

The first meeting was a bit rocky, Airman Logan said.

"I didn't know what to do or say around her," she said.

"Now she's like my little sister."

The two go to the park, out to eat, and decorated Airman Logan's Christmas tree together. Airman Logan also attended Quandaneshia's Christmas program at school.

When Thanksgiving came, she decided to invite Quandaneshia to meet her family in Morganton.

"I wanted her to see the mountains," she said. "I wanted her to have a family atmosphere.

"I didn't want to take her away from her family, but they weren't really doing anything, so let her go."

The second-grader at Carver Heights Elementary School has two older siblings and two younger ones. She made the three and a half hour trek to Morganton, staying from Wednesday through Sunday.

While there, Airman Logan took her to the park, to the movies and to the mountains.

Overall, she says, it's been a good match.

"She has opened up a lot," she said of Quandaneshia. "She's kind of like I was when I was younger.

"I want her to open up and enjoy my time with her."