It’s a match made in mentorship.
Kinship Mentoring of Columbia County hired Sara McChesney as its program coordinator and aims to pair 25 children with mentors in the community by the end of 2021. The organization is similar to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and operates under Positively Portage for its fundraising.
“We want the community to know we’ll be up and running and we need them,” said McChesney, who officially begins her new role April 22. “I am extremely excited about this opportunity.”
For the past two years. McChesney has been a case manager in mental health services at Seasons Counseling in Pardeeville. She is a 2002 Montello High School graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Human Services from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and is working on acquiring a master’s degree in Social Work from Winona State University.
Kinship will open an office at 1115 W. Pleasant St. in Portage on May 1.
“It’s awesome for us to actually get to this point,” Kinship Board President Doug Fearing said. “We’re fully funded thanks to some generous donors and can’t wait to start making some matches.”
For operations, Kinship is utilizing a $50,000 matching grant from the Leola Culver Family Foundation and $30,000 from the Edward and June Lenz Charitable Trust, among other donations from the community. It will provide mentoring for youth of the ages 5 to 14, trying to improve their lives by bolstering their self-esteem and offering opportunities for social and emotional skill development, Fearing said.
“I’m excited not just for the kids who need mentoring but also for the people who become mentors and the impact that it will have in their lives,” said Kinship Treasurer & Finance Committee Chair Mark Considine, who plans to eventually become a mentor himself. “We’re all excited to see it take hold.”
McChesney expects Kinship to host or participate in Portage events in the summer to raise awareness and ultimately find more mentors for its Community Match program. During the 2021-2022 school year, Kinship also plans to establish a Lunch Buddies program in local schools for mentors who can’t volunteer their time on weekends or evenings, Fearing said.
“What’s unique about Kinship is we have so many different types of professionals involved in this including the local sheriff (Roger Brandner), an attorney and a grandmother who’s raising her grandson,” McChesney said. “It really hits all of our demographics in the community — nobody is excluded.”
“I think our children in Columbia County definitely need healthy relationships and that can only happen if people step in and invest in them,” McChesney said. “One way we can combat against trauma is to form healthy relationships and that’s what mentoring does: It creates those healthy, safe relationships that grow with the child so that their relationships, later in life, will be better, healthier and happier, and that improves our community.”
The organization is one of more than 30 affiliates of Kinship Inc., a nonprofit organization headquartered in Minnesota. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Columbia County ended about a decade ago after losing support from the BBBS Dane County affiliate.
Follow Noah Vernau on Twitter @NoahVernau or contact him at 608-695-4956.