Thurston County's Hidden Sector

It's National Mentoring Month everywhere -- and especially in Thurston County


Happy New Year! Recently, I have seen several posts from friends suggesting that setting resolutions may be a negative action and that they prefer to choose a more positive response to the new year. (I think this is like when I tried to not give up anything for Lent but rather, do a positive action – the nuns did not buy it).

If you are more in the resolution camp, here is something that you may want to consider.

What is Mentoring?

 There are many forms of mentorship; however, the mentoring that I am referring to here is where someone older, usually an adult, supports the critical social and emotional development needed to help build resilience and promote the mental health of someone younger than themselves, a child or teen.

Think about it, who taught you how to ride a bike, to cook macaroni and cheese or how to shake hands? If that person was not in your life was there someone else who would have stepped up?

National Mentoring Month

Every January, nonprofits involved in mentoring unite to celebrate and promote National Mentoring Month.

(I recall being so excited one January when I worked for a mentoring organization when a mentoring poster was shown in the background of an episode of the TV series, "Friends." It was in Ross' classroom.)

National Mentoring Month is led by MENTOR, an organization founded in 2002 by NBA legend Bill Russell and singer-songwriter Usher to unify the movement. According to its website, they "use the power of their collective voices to recruit new mentors, advance the mentoring field's legislative priorities and drive meaningful change for young people."

Does Mentoring Make a Difference?

According to MENTOR, mentors play a powerful role in providing young people with the tools to make responsible choices, attend and engage in school, and reduce or avoid risky behavior.

Young people with mentors are:

  • 55% more likely to be enroll in college
  • 81% more likely to report regularly participating in sports or extracurricular activities.
  • 78% more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities.
  • They were more than twice as likely to say they held a leadership position in a club or sports team.
  • The same research shows that one in three young people in our country will grow up without a mentor.

Since January is the month of resolutions, it is no wonder that this is the time of year where engagement in mentoring is at its peak. If you are interested in learning more about National Mentoring Month or becoming a mentor, go to or contact one of the local organizations below.

Mentoring to Fit Your Schedule

Big Brothers and Big Sisters

When I say "mentoring" many folks think of Big Brothers and Big Sisters (BBBS); however, mentoring might not be what you imagine. Life is busy for everyone, so BBBS has adapted their program to require its mentors (whom they call “Bigs”) to meet with their "Littles" two-to-four times a month (four hours total) at a time that is convenient for both. BBBS also offers site-based mentoring where you’d meet with your Little at a BBBS partner location such as a school, for one hour per week (or at least twice per month). This could be during lunch or after school. For more information on our local organization, BBBS of Southwest Washington, go to


A similar site-based mentoring organization is TOGETHER!, a community-based organization that partners with the Tumwater School District to provide services to students and their families. For more details go to

Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County

Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County also offers one-time volunteer opportunities as well as consistent volunteer positions at any of its seven locations. Many volunteer opportunities may be adapted to accommodate your schedule and include engaging with youth through one-on-one tutoring, homework help, art projects and recreational activities. For more details go to

Community Youth Services

Community Youth Services offers volunteer opportunities that range from working directly with youth to helping with administrative tasks. The time commitment may be for a short-term project or a partnership over several years. Check their site at for current opportunities.

Virtual Mentoring

Given the advances in technology and restrictions due to the pandemic, many organizations have adapted their mentoring program to include check-ins via text or video chat. One such organization is empowerHER, a national organization that matches women 25+ who have lost their mother with young women who have also lost their mother. According to their website, mentor meetups can take place in-person or virtually around milestone moments such as holidays, back-to-school shopping, Mom's anniversary, or birthday. Virtual mentor matches can involve attendance at an empowerHER VIRTUAL event, Zoom/House Party/FaceTime calls, Netflix watch parties, virtual museum tours, or just a phone call or text to check in and show support. For more information on this program go to

Teen to Youth Mentoring

The Crisis Clinic of Thurston and Mason Counties provides a phone service offering crisis intervention, emotional support, information, and referral resources as part of their Teen/Youth Help Line. Teen Volunteers must be at least 15 years old, undergo the necessary training and permission from their parent or guardian. For more details go to

Latino Mentoring Programs

Hispanic Roundtable Latino Mentoring Program serves as a support system for youth of the Latino community by connecting them with committed adults. For more information contact or check


Senior Mentoring Resources


Catholic Community Services Foster Grandparent Program recruits' seniors to provide one-on-one emotional support, mentoring, and tutoring for children from preschool age to 18 at schools and other sites throughout Western Washington. For more details call – 1-800-372-3697 or go to

Soliciting your ideas

If you know of a nonprofit that is doing something great, celebrating a success, needs some outstanding volunteers or hosting an event, let me know! This column (aside from a little education) celebrates nonprofits! 

Mary Beth Harrington, CVA (Certified Volunteer Administrator) lives in Tumwater. She travels the country speaking at conferences and to individual organizations articulating issues facing nonprofits. Send your ideas to her at




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