08/24/09 — WARM Hearts mentors share time, companionship with local youths

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WARM Hearts mentors share time, companionship with local youths

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on August 24, 2009 1:59 PM

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Jeremy May, left, a student at Mount Olive College, horses around with Max Fimchum, 9, in the pool at the Family Y. May entered the mentoring program as a way to complete a volunteer requirement.

The word "mentor" means teacher, but for the children and teens in the Wayne Area Role Models mentoring program, it also translates to "pool party."

The WARM Hearts party at the YMCA swimming pool was just one of the monthly gatherings the program holds to give the students a chance to spend time with their mentors and have some fun.

Mentoring can have a tremendously positive influence on a child's life, and WARM Hearts program director Arlando Mitchell is dedicated to connecting local children with community volunteers.

"I feel like our youth need good role models, now more than ever," Mitchell said.

Mitchell worked in a group home for at-risk children for more than a decade before stepping in to lead the WARM Hearts program at the Goldsboro Family YMCA. His years of experience working with at-risk children taught him to appreciate the impact a good role model can have on a child's life.

"It starts early. It starts before they get to the point where they would be living in a group home," he said. "I feel I get to be proactive in my work with the program. I love it. I love what I do."

Mentoring helps keep youths out of trouble, gives them someone to look up to and can instill positive values such as responsibility, integrity, respect, honesty and caring, tenets of the YMCA creed, Mitchell said.

WARM Hearts screens and approves all program volunteers, matching them with a child with similar likes, dislikes and interests. They can also match mentors based on faith.

Khara Hawkins and her student, Lakhia Bullard, 13, both enjoy going shopping, and spend time talking as they browse through stores. Ms. Hawkins also makes a point of attending her mentee's school functions and even stops by just to have lunch sometimes. You don't have to go far out of your way to mentor a child, she said.

"It's just stuff I do on a normal basis, but I mix her in," Ms. Hawkins explained.

Lakhia said she would recommend the program to other children and teens who might be considering getting a mentor.

"You get out of the house," she said. "You should get one (a mentor). It's a lot of fun."

Jeremy May, a Mount Olive College student in business administration, likes being active and swimming, and so does Max Fimchum, the 9-year-old he is mentoring. The two spent the pool party kicking around in the pool, and May helped Max swim a lap of the Olympic-sized pool using a kickboard.

May became involved with WARM Hearts as a way to complete volunteer hours for a college requirement, but there have been more personal rewards from his work as a mentor.

"It's a great opportunity for me to reach out," he said.

In the time he has been working with Max, the boy has already started looking up to his mentor. Usually they shake hands to say goodbye, but one day Max gave May a goodbye hug instead.

It might have been a little mushy, but it was rewarding to see Max enjoying spending time with his "big brother," May said.

"It really shows me that I'm making an important difference in his life," he said. "I feel like that's what we're put on this earth to do."

The program is in dire need of more mentors, especially males, Mitchell said.

WARM Hearts has 15 mentors and another four are still being processed before they are assigned to a child, but there are more than a dozen boys on the waiting list hoping to be paired with a mentor. There just aren't enough volunteers to match everyone yet.

"These are children who want a mentor, who welcome it," Mitchell said. "I need more help from the males in the community."

WARM Hearts reaches out to people regardless of race -- black, white, Hispanic and all others who would want to join -- and the mentors hail from all walks of life.

"The YMCA is for everybody," Mitchell said.

For more information on the program, to sign up a child or to volunteer as a mentor, contact the YMCA at 778-8557.