Drew Finkbeiner, right, plays Jenga with his junior partner, Jake. The two were matched through Partners in Routt County, which is looking for more male mentors to spend time with area youth.

Paula Steele/Courtesy

Drew Finkbeiner, right, plays Jenga with his junior partner, Jake. The two were matched through Partners in Routt County, which is looking for more male mentors to spend time with area youth.

Partners in Routt County to host annual fundraiser Sunday

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Silent auction items

A sampling of the silent auction items at Java & Jazz

■ A Radio Shack cycling jersey signed by Lance Armstrong

■ A week on the shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont

■ A season pass to Steamboat Ski Area

■ Tickets to Colorado Avalanche and Denver Broncos games

■ Accounting and advertising services

■ Propane

■ Skis

Past Event

Java & Jazz fundraiser for Partners in Routt County

  • Sunday, September 12, 2010, 4:30 p.m.
  • Lake Catamount, State Highway 131, Steamboat Springs
  • Not available / $50 - $80

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— Ten years ago in a bookstore, Susan Johnston laid eyes on a scared 8-year-old girl.

Just a few weeks ago, she watched that girl, now 18, pack up her things and leave for her freshman year at Mesa State College with an ambitious sparkle in her eye and a new sense of self worth.

“She called and said, ‘I fit in, I can do this, and it’s easier than it’s ever been before,’” Johnston said. “I didn’t do anything. I just spent time with her. This is about Bethany. She worked very hard to do what she did.”

After being matched by Partners in Routt County’s one-on-one mentoring program, Johnston and her junior partner, Bethany, spent several hours a week together.

They studied together, laughed and played. In sync, their hearts broke, and they learned and grew with each challenge.

“It was the perfect organization for (Bethany),” Johnston said about Partners. “I am so lucky I went there, otherwise, I wouldn’t have had a teensy part of her growing up. It was wonderful. She went through lots of challenges, and we did it together.”

Relationships like Johnston and Bethany’s are made possible by the nonprofit organization, which hosts its annual Java & Jazz fundraiser at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the Lake Catamount Clubhouse.

Tickets are $50 for one person and $80 for a couple. Coffee, wine, appetizers and desserts will be served, and guests will be treated to the music of the Steamboat Springs Jazz Quartet.

A silent auction will feature items, gift certificates and trips donated by local sponsors.

Partners Executive Director Libby Foster said this is the fourth year of the annual fundraiser.

“We wanted a very unique event,” Foster said. “Something that was not another golf tournament. Something special. An occasion where people could dress up and sip wine in combination with an event that’s still down to earth.”

That atmosphere reflects on the organization, whose mission and vision is to help Routt County youths succeed and blossom into healthy, happy and productive adults, Foster said. Partners also has school-based mentors that work with children in all three Routt County school districts.

“Partners is an organization all about relationships,” she said. “Obviously, between mentor and mentee, within the staff and the board and our community supporters. So, it’s easy for us to come together and naturally feel like a family. We have this common bond, and it’s a strong bond. We all work very hard for these kids.”

Partners serves more than 400 children each year, ranging in age from 7 to 17. But, as in the case of Johnston and Bethany, there is no limit to the length and impact of the partners’ relationship.

Not only did Johnston help Bethany work through her insecurities and learning disability, Bethany’s presence made a difference in her senior partner’s life, as well.

About five years ago, John­ston’s spouse died, and Bethany accepted that her partner might not be as available during the ensuring weeks. She even showed up at the memorial service with a tea set, special tea and sugar.

“Her heart was broken, too, because mine was,” Johnston said.

For most, the program ends when the junior partner turns 18. But Johnston said she and Bethany will stay friends forever.

“If you’re wondering how to make a difference,” she said, “this is it.”

For Foster, senior partners aren’t the only people who make a difference. Corporate and individual donations are helping keep the 14-year-old program afloat as state funding wanes during the economic recession.

“We have so much support on different levels from all corners of the community,” Foster said. “There’s a lot of people in this town that do care about these kids. Sometimes we get a little focused on the negative, we’re so worried about kids in the community.

“Their futures are bright, and our goal is to help them get there.”

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