Editor's note: Did you know? For over seven decades, the Norwalk-based Human Services Council has identified unmet community needs and has “filled in the gaps” by creating and fostering programs that educate, safeguard and empower people living and working in our communities. They serve over 8,000 children, families and individuals each year. The Human Services Council invites Ridgefield residents to "be a Hero" by mentoring a local child through their Norwalk Mentoring Program. Read the story below to learn more, and consider changing a life this holiday season.
Richard Collins is an example of how giving back can come full circle. He had a mentor through the Norwalk Mentor Program from 3rd grade through 6th grade, until his mentor moved out of the area due to work. 15 years later, Richard has become a mentor in the program and wants to help a child grow and succeed, just like he did.
“Having a mentor made a really big impact on my life”, says Collins. “He taught me how to think outside the box, broaden my imagination. My mentor, Dal, introduced me to Harry Potter. I was around a lot of adults growing up, so I feel like I missed out on being a kid. Dal helped me learn to be a kid again. We played playdough together and other fun games.”
Collins still remembers Dal bringing him sushi for lunch one day. “I would have never tried sushi on my own”, says Collins.” He says he liked drinking orange soda growing up and his mentor brought natural orange soda for him to try one day. “I still drink the natural orange soda to this day!” Collins has reconnected with his former mentor. “Dal gives me advice on many things. Recently, he gave me suggestions on activities to do with my mentee.”
In order to provide mentors to more students, the Norwalk Mentor Program established HEROES (Helping Enrich Relationships of Every Student) which allows someone to sponsor a mentor/mentee match and be involved in a different way. “A HEROES sponsor can provide additional support, without the commitment of meeting a child once a week”, says Nancy Pratt, Director of the Norwalk Mentor Program. “It helps the program grow so that we can match more mentors with students”.
Consider becoming a HERO and make a difference in a child’s life; whether you are a company or an individual who wants to give back to their community.