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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment May 27, 2018

5/8/2018 1:20:00 PM
Luncheon supports mentor program
Ivan talked about the good times he has with his mentor Nick Gill during the annual Circle of Friends Luncheon at The Belfry last week. photo by Jerry Baldock
+ click to enlarge
Ivan talked about the good times he has with his mentor Nick Gill during the annual Circle of Friends Luncheon at The Belfry last week. photo by Jerry Baldock

By Jodi Schneider McNamee

"Last year when I came on board for Circle of Friends we had 25 kids being mentored and we had a goal of reaching 30 and astoundingly we blew right past our goal and we're serving 40 kids today!" said Nicky Merritt, Circle of Friends executive director, during the 6th annual Friend and Fund Raiser Luncheon, held last Wednesday at The Belfry.

Board members, committee members, mentors, and first-time folks who wanted an introduction to the mentoring program gathered together for the event to enjoy lunch made by Boone Dog Pizza and CascadeTrailstop Market.

Circle of Friends is a volunteer mentoring program in Sisters that was founded in 2011 by Duncan Campbell. The program model was based on the Portland nonprofit Friends of the Children.

Board member Carolyn Gabrielson kicked off the luncheon to nearly 100 guests by introducing the volunteers who are the backbone of Circle of Friends.

"Our mentors are the heart and soul of the program," she said. "They give a lot of their time, their energy, and their talents for the kids. I think the whole program is about relationships, and relationships are a two-way street and our kids are learning that. The kids are coming up with their own ideas on how to give back to their mentors. It's give-and-take, and that says to me that their relationships are flourishing and that's what the whole program is about."

Circle of Friends has evolved over the past year in every direction, including the launch of new programs for the mentored children.

There are businesses in the community that have committed to one year of support for Circle of Friends, and one of them is Zosel Harper Realty, who sponsors the Christmas wrapping event every December. Each child is to receive a $20 gift certificate to the Habitat for Humanity Thrift Store to do Christmas shopping. Western Title Escrow, Newport Construction Management and Jan McGowan Nonprofit Consulting are also supporters.

Circle of Friends is now mentoring children of all ages throughout the Sisters School District.

"The coolest thing is that the youths that have been with us since the beginning are entering middle and high school," Debbie Newport, fund development director, told The Nugget. "And we are looking to build the high school programing to support those kids."

Merritt introduced the Circle of Friends mentors and talked about new programs.

"In the summer we have a reading program for our younger kids and will have some of our older kids coming in and mentoring the younger ones," she said. "We began a robotics program last fall and we have two teens from Redmond Proficiency Academy coming in to facilitate it."

Robotics integrates all STEM fields in a way no other subject can cover. It brings together mechanical, electrical, electronics, control engineering, computer science, technology, math and science.

"Even the luncheon placemats were a science experiment. The kids put milk and soap to the test and learned about chemical reactions and movements of atomic bonding." Merritt added.

Circle of Friends middle school kids now have the support of the Caldera Youth Program.

"We introduced our middle school program kids to a partnership with Caldera," said Merritt. "We were seeking out something that supported our middle school and our high school kids a little better than what we were doing. So now our kids are getting extra exposure to the arts on a weekly basis at the middle school."

"And because of the partnership with Caldera we were able to bring in 16 new high school kids into our mentoring program. It's an incredible partnership that the kids flourishing [in]."

Near the conclusion of the luncheon Merritt introduced Ivan, who has been mentored since kindergarten, and his mentor, Nick Gill.

"We are just going into our fifth year of hanging out together once or twice a week," Gill said. "We don't do anything phenomenal, we just have a good time together."

Ivan added "We do fun stuff together like bike-riding and pickleball. And we go swimming in the summer, go to the movies, and have great conversations together."

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