Lopez Mentor program enriches the lives of kids – and adults

The Lopez Island Family Resource Center's mentor program has been matching adults with kids for nearly a dozen years. The program currently has more children than available adults -- they are especially in need of men.

Patience Taylor and Mary Schoenman have been friends for eight years, traveling to Hawaii, going snowboarding and airplane flying, and spending lots of time in the kitchen.

Patience, who is 13, met Mary when she was five, and Mary has been her reliable, loving mentor since the first time they spent a day together, walking on the beach and playing on the computer. Their connection is obvious, from the easy smiles they give one another to the excitement that happy memories bring to their faces.

The two are part of the Lopez Island Family Resource Center’s mentor program, which has been matching adults with kids for nearly a dozen years. The program currently has more children than available adults — they are especially in need of men.

“I would say if you like kids and their spontaneity of life, then it’s a fun place to be. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you are together,” said Mary. “Some grown ups forget how it is to be a kid, but it’s about having fun.”

Patience and Mary have gone fishing, bicycling, skateboarding, canoeing, participated in the mentor/mentee gardening program at Sally’s Garden, and went on a trip to Hawaii together. “I like someone being there for me,” said Patience. They take photographs, have made three quilts, went snowboarding for a weekend, and piloted an airplane with local pilot Charlie Walker. “We love playing dominoes, rummy — and doing duets on the piano,” said Mary. When Patience recently received a puppy, she named him after the Schoenmans’ cat, Buddy. “It was very special,” said Mary. They also do a lot of cookie baking, eating, and preparing fresh orange juice. “Patience is meant to be in the kitchen. She knows exactly what to do.”

“We love each other and we get along well. For me it’s the one-on-one that makes it so special. This girl is so fun to be with. It’s all about action — we love to be active. The other part of it is the family connection. Her parents and I have a good rapport,” said Mary. Patience’s brother would also like to have a mentor.

Patience, who is in the seventh grade, is a busy girl: she plays basketball, volleyball, and track in school. They meet once a week regularly, plus for special activities they plan. One of their favorite outings is to go swimming at the large pool in Anacortes during the summer. Patience brings a friend along, and “we have such fun. They open all the doors in the summer,” said Mary.

Seven-year-old Shyanne Owens has been with her mentor Linda Hudson for close to a year. “We play Barbies, we cook brownies, cakes, and cookies. We watch movies together and make popcorn, and we do thousand-piece puzzles,” said Shyanne, who also likes to take photographs with Linda’s camera. “She’s a pretty good little photographer,” said Linda. They go to potlucks, and lately Shyanne has been coming with Linda to her “Fiddler on the Roof” rehearsals to watch actors at work. She also spends the night once a month. “That’s my favorite,” said Shyanne with a smile.

“I like having a little girl in my life and the life of my family,” said Linda. “My husband does the puzzles with her, and my mom Marjorie is around too.” Linda is very involved in her 13-year-old grandson’s life, and “what really motivated me was I’ve never had a granddaughter.”

“I like staying with her. I like being together. I feel happy,” said Shyanne. They meet once a week regularly, but “if I think there is something she’ll enjoy, I ask if she wants to join me.” They go grocery shopping together, and last year they attended the San Juan County Fair.

“It really enriches your life and you enjoy life through the eyes of a child. We love what Shyanne says — we are always laughing. She adds so much to our lives.”

Anyone interested in becoming a mentor goes through an application process, a background check, and a six-hour training session. Adults are then matched to a same-sex child based on interests.

“All mentors I’ve talked to say what a big part of their lives it is and how much THEY get out of a mentorship,” said Susie Teague, mentor coordinator for the Resource Center.

The time commitment is flexible, although mentors usually meet with their mentee about once a week. Activities depend entirely on the adult and child and what they want to do. The kids are typically six to ten years old. As they mature, the label is often changed from “mentor” to “friend.”

The qualifications to become a mentor are pretty simple: wanting to make a positive difference in a child’s life and being patient, positive, and enthusiastic.

Both adults and kids interested in the mentor program are encouraged to call Suzi Teague at 468-4117.