Hello Bend! During the season of giving, so many of us have donated to the bell ringers as we walked into the grocery store, grabbed a tag off the local giving tree, dropped a toy in the Toys for Tots box and maybe even adopted a child or family. It feels so good to help those in need, especially during the holiday season. As a family, we have personally made this the year we have contributed the most, to many different outlets. We are setting our intentions to go into 2020 and make giving back a priority.
After going through the holidays and seeing how many people there are in need here in Central Oregon alone, we want to focus our efforts on organizations that will have a big impact locally. I discovered Friends of the Children through one of my friends that is the family liaison for their Central Oregon chapter. Any organization that helps children has an immediate place in my heart!
This non-profit focuses on helping the most vulnerable children develop the relationships, goals, and skills necessary to break the cycles of poverty, abuse and violence, and become contributing members of society. In each community, they chose children that are at serious risk of continuing poverty and work to reduce that risk. Research has shown that the most important factor for building resiliency in children who face the highest risks is a long-term, consistent relationship with a caring adult.
Entrepreneur Duncan Campbell’s own troubled youth was the catalyst for founding Friends of the Children in 1993. They began with 3 salaried mentors (called Friends) serving 24 children in Portland. Today Friends reaches thousands of children in over 250 schools in communities across the nation. Their successful model is in 15 locations nationwide. Central Oregon became a 501 (c)(3) chapter on October 1, 2017. In early 2019, Duncan Campbell and the Friends of the Children organization was featured in the NY Times, read the full story here.
The children selected for this program have a high degree of vulnerability to school failure, gang and drug involvement and teenage pregnancy. Many of their children have faced poverty, homelessness, neglect, abuse, foster care, parental incarceration, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence. 60% have parents who did not graduate high school, 50% of their youth have parents who were incarcerated, and 85% were born to a teen parent.
Friends are professional mentors that are full-time, salaried professionals who spend 3-4 hours every week with each of their children; teaching valuable life skills, instilling positive behaviors, and helping them grow into responsible adults. Every child’s dedicated, one-on-one Friend divides their time between the classroom and helping them in a variety of activities, such as doing homework and going to museums and sporting events they couldn’t otherwise afford. Friends of the Children works with their children for 12.5 years-from kindergarten through graduation and entry to post-secondary education and into the workforce.
What makes Friends of the Children different than other similar programs and organizations, is the “mentors” in these programs are NOT volunteers. The Friends are paid a wage equivalent to or slightly higher than a teachers’ salary in the first years of their careers. Moving mentorship out of the volunteer realm is a key component to getting the quality, consistency and commitment these children need. Several of their Friends have been with the program for 20 years; the average tenure is over 7 years. Some have even left the program to adopt the child they were mentoring out of foster care!
Making an Impact Locally
Living in Bend, it can be easy to forget that these circumstances are real and happen here locally. There are plenty of kids who eat most of their meals at school, whose families experience homelessness or are growing up in circumstances that do no benefit them and hinder future success in life. Maybe their parents cannot support the family, so they grow up hungry, or maybe they are left mostly on their own because their parents are working all the time. Parents may be abusive or pre-occupied with their own problems. Knowing that children are born into their situation, they are completely innocent and do not have a choice, a voice or a means to make a difference at such a young age, Friends of the Children Central Oregon will help to have a BIG impact on these kids locally.
Currently, the Central Oregon chapter is serving 36 children, with a goal to serve 48 children by March/April of 2020 and 64 youth by 2022. Friends of the Children Central Oregon is currently raising money to bring on 12 more children in the coming months, and as a result, is also in the process of hiring another mentor.
Their primary goal for 2020 is to purchase their first program car that will be shared among the six Friends. The children are selected in Bend and Redmond, however they tend to be highly transient and move all over Central Oregon due to a number of factors, including the affordable housing crisis. This past year, Friends collectively put almost 30,000 miles on their personal vehicles to mentor youth where they live, play and go to school.
They are also currently looking for their “forever home”. The Friends of the Children Central Oregon office also doubles as a “clubhouse” for the Friends and their children. This is a space to not only go spend their time together to connect, play and read, but also a space for teaching life skills. One of their biggest desires is to have a fully operational kitchen to help teach the children even the most basic skills of boiling water safely, how to load a dishwasher, and as they get older, how to cook.
How Can We Help?
With their main goal of 2020 being the purchase of a shared program vehicle, and thanks to the Schultz Family Foundation, Robberson Ford and several others, they have raised $16,700 towards a $30,000 SUV. To help Friends of the Children Central Oregon purchase their first program car, make a direct donation to their Go Fund Me Account.
Help Friends of the Children Central Oregon reach their goal of 100 monthly donors. This is a great way to continue to give throughout the year and have the biggest impact! When you give, your generosity changes lives. There are 4 monthly donation levels:
$10 per month – Provides ongoing training in youth development for professional mentors so they can help their children overcome obstacles.
$25 per month – Provides a celebration outing for youth who achieve their monthly goal, reinforcing a sense of pride and hope for the future.
$50 per month – Provides a cell phone for a Friend/mentor to stay in constant contact with youth and their parent/caregivers, especially in case of emergencies.
$100 per month – Provides opportunities for innovative science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, in addition to ensuring the completion of homework.
The Wish List
Beyond the traditional monetary donations needed, the Friends of the Children Central Oregon branch has a Wish List of items needed for the kiddos at their clubhouse. Sporting equipment, craft supplies and games top the list. There is also a high level of need for gift cards to buy items and supplies as needed throughout the year.
Another valuable resource needed is access to local activities for the children, during their time with their Friends. Currently, Friends of the Children receives a discount at Bend Rock Gym and through the Bend Parks and Rec, half off at Trampoline Zone and Mountain Air, and has free access to the Bend Athletic Club.
Friends of the Children Central Oregon also plans to launch a volunteer program in the near future. “Reading Buddies” and “Art Buddies” will give volunteers the opportunity to come in and read with a child or help with an art project. To learn more about their current volunteer needs, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give them a call at 541-668-6836.
Below is a video to give you a little more insight into the Friends of the Children organization and the impact it has on the children that participate in this program. If you are looking for a way to help within our Central Oregon community, I encourage you to give Friends of the Children serious consideration through one of the various charitable opportunities listed above. They are an amazing organization!