Wednesday, May 27, 2015 The Nugget Newspaper, Sisters, Oregon 21 Luncheon raises funds to support mentoring program By Jodi Schneider McNamee Correspondent Circle of Friends has been evolving since their start in 2011, and on Wednesday, May 20, in their annual “fund- and friend-raiser” luncheon, that evolution continued. For the first time, two of the young friends from the mentoring program attended the lun- cheon with their friends/men- tors and were introduced to guests with a question/answer roundup on stage. Board members, commit- tee members, mentors and first-time folks who wanted an introduction to the mentor- ing program gathered together for the event at The Belfry to enjoy a free buffet-style lunch that was sponsored by Melvin’s Fir Street Market. Executive Director Debbie Newport explained to the nearly 100 guests what Circle of Friends is all about. “We provide one-on-one mentors for children in our community who can ben- efit from the presence of an additional adult in their lives. Typically we call these friend relationships. A child and a friend relationship begins early in a child’s school career such as kindergarten or first grade and then Circle of Friends continues to support the children all the way until they complete high school,” Newport said. “It’s a constant in the mentor’s lives to sup- ply the guidance, support, and advocacy as they grow from child to adulthood, and it hap- pens in the belief that this kind of support increases the likeli- hood of lifelong success.” According to Board President Marti Ayers they are currently serving 22 chil- dren and anticipate that within a short period of time Circle of Friends will be moving up toward 30 children. Circle of Friends founder Duncan Campbell was on hand as a special guest. “I was asked to share what is the reason this is a passion of mine,” Campbell said. “The first reason is an emotional one; I was one of these kids. I grew up with parents that were alcoholics. Another reason is that when I worked in the juvenile court I loved working with the kids. I watched repeat offenders over the years, and knew that if they had had a friend they wouldn’t have been there. The third reason came about when I hired a child psychiatrist to do research to find out if my lifelong dream to help these children could become a real- ity. We found out that there is resilience in these children even if they come from the most challenging home, and that‘s when I started Friends of the Children in Portland with children from my old neighborhood. “Even though I live in Portland part of the time, I feel that Sisters is my community and that’s why I started Circle of Friends. We want to serve every child in Sisters that needs a friend.” The activities that the friends and children do together are unique to the child’s individual needs, abilities, interests and talents. Friends engage in activities with the children that foster social and emotional develop- ment, making positive choices and school success, as well as nurture the child’s passions and talents. Near the conclusion of the luncheon, board member Craig Longfield introduced two of the young friends, Alexis Lajko, a second-grader at Sisters Elementary School, and fifth-grader Rowena Lucas, to a room full of guests. Beth Hanson, a mentor who has been with Circle of photo by Jodi schneider mcnamee youngsters mentored in Circle of Friends spoke at an event last week. Friends from its birth, initi- ated a question-and-answer round beginning with her young friend Rowena while mentor Kay Johnson and her little friend Alexis sat close by. “Rowena and I have been matched since she was in first grade, so it’s been four great years, and Alexis and Kay have been matched for two years,” Hanson informed the guests. “We are going to pass around the microphone and ask Alexis and Rowena what they think about Circle of Friends,” Hanson added. “Rowena, what is one of your favorite things about having a mentor?” Hanson asked her little friend, as she handed the microphone to her. “I like that you are always there for me and you always help me with problems I need help with.” “What is one of your favor- ite things about having Kay as your friend?” Hanson asked Alexis. “She spends her time with me and helps me when I’m sad.” Some of the guests were moved to tears to be able to witness for the first time how the children feel about their supportive mentors who spend quality one-on-one time each week providing their young friends with a consistent friendship.