Partners in Routt County seeks adult volunteers

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— Sunday’s third annual “Pig-Out 4 Partners” event to benefit Partners in Routt County served two purposes, said Executive Director Libby Foster.

Foster said 10 percent of the proceeds from the day’s business at Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant, given to Partners, would provide the youth mentoring organization with some much-needed funding. And she hoped it would improve Partners’ visibility in the community.

The latter purpose could help Partners recruit adult volunteers who could be paired with at-risk youth, ages 7 to 17, to spend three hours a week together for a year.

Foster said inquiries from potential senior partners and community interest in volunteering for the organization have “decreased dramatically,” she suspects because of the economy.

“That’s tough because we have an increased need,” Foster said. “There are more kids who need mentors and fewer senior partners available.”

Foster said the greatest needs are finding male senior partners and finding senior partners in rural areas of the county. Meeting both needs has been challenging since the organization began pairing youths and adults in 1996.

Partners also provides school-based mentors in each Routt County public middle school. The program provides three mentors in Steamboat Springs and two each in Hayden and South Routt, pairing AmeriCorps volunteers with at-risk youth in each school.

Loryn Kasten has been a senior partner for the past four or five months. Whether she and her 8-year-old junior partner are doing arts and crafts activities, going to movies, taking bike rides or cooking, Kasten said, they’re always having fun.

Being a mentor for Partners has been an amazing opportunity, she said. Kasten said becoming a part of someone else’s life has helped her grow and change as a person.

“It’s a friendship as much as it is a mentorship,” she said.

Krissy Olick, Rio Grande manager, said the restaurant gives to many local organizations, but Partners is the only one that receives 10 percent of a day’s sales each year.

“It really is important to Rio, as a business in each of its communities, to be involved,” she said.

Last year, Foster said the Pig-Out 4 Partners event at Rio Grande provided the organization with more than $400. She hopes this year will turn out to be even better.

This year, there are 40 partnerships, but Foster said there are some children who haven’t been paired with a mentor because of a lack of senior partners. She said Partners hopes to increase the number of partnerships next year to 45.

Foster said despite a decrease in funding in 2010, Partners hopes to increase the services it provides.

“This is such a giving community,” she said. “If we can really get the message out about how much we need volunteers, I feel people will step up despite their obligations.”

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