Mentoring: important way to pay it forward

Posted: June 25, 2014 – in the Homer News

I feel lucky now that my parents decided to move back to Wisconsin to be closer to family when they married. Through the adults pooling their time, housing, food and energy, they exposed us to different activities and programs in various communities. They also were great at teaching us practical skills beyond just learning how to load the dishwasher correctly. My grandmother taught me how to sew. My uncles taught us every sport they could think of. And they all shared an appreciation for music.

Education and a strong work ethic were important with all my relatives. Many held down two or three jobs to take care of their families and only a few were able to afford college. At every family gathering the conversation around the lawn chairs or kitchen table would eventually turn to “the college lecture” as we cousins called it. Despite their inability to help fund our higher educations, there was never any doubt or leeway in our parents, aunts  and uncles, and grandmothers’ minds that we would all graduate from high school and we would all go to college or a vocational training program.

With only four girl cousins compared to 11 boy cousins — us girls sometimes felt outnumbered but never excluded. My mom, aunts and grandmothers never lost a moment to remind us about the struggles they faced in the work force during the 1950s and 60s. My grandmother, supporting three children on her own, dedicated years to a company and still made less than her male counterparts. My mother was forced to quit her job as a flight attendant when she married. And even though they all had a similar story, they still kept going to work, fighting back when they could, so they could help put food on the table and presents under the tree.

As a child and a teenager I didn’t always appreciate the mentoring I received from my relatives. Sometimes it was a little too much like lecturing. Sometimes I just wanted to go play with my cousin’s new Atari. But it always left me with a feeling that I was cared about.

So now, as I listen to the Big volunteers talk about their mentors, I think about my relatives and wish that they were just a two-hour car ride away instead of a costly plane ride. I’ve learned from my job that we all have benefited from (and continue to benefit from) mentors: someone who is willing to teach us and support us for a short time or the long haul. They don’t do it for money. They do it because they care. And because, kids being kids, we don’t often tell our mentors “thank you” in a timely manner, I believe one of the best ways to show your appreciation for your mentor is to pay it forward and become a mentor yourself.

In Homer, we are lucky to have a wealth of opportunities to pick from where you can share your knowledge with a child or a teen or an adult. There are sports, community recreation, schools, music, arts and theater programs, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Homer Council on the Arts, Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, Pratt Museum, Kachemak Nordic Ski Club, Homer Cycling Club, Kachemak Bay Running Club, HoWL, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girls on the Run, Pier One, faith-based programs, Kenai Peninsula Youth Court,  REC Room, and the list goes on and on.  If you don’t feel you have the time to be a mentor or coach, make a donation or attend a fundraising event with one of these organizations. Research shows that donating and volunteering can improve your health and prolong your life.

Jenny Martin is a Big Sister, an aunt, a godmother, an adjunct teacher at Kachemak Bay Campus, a coordinator for Best Beginnings Homer early childhood education coalition, and the community director of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Homer. She’ll be away for three weeks this summer catching up with all her relatives in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. She may need a little vacation when she returns. 

Upcoming Grant Deadlines

City of Homer Grant

The Homer Foundation’s City of Homer Grants program is made possible through an annual allocation from the City of Homer and annual earnings from the City of Homer and Kachemak City endowment funds. Criteria have been established taking into consideration the City of Homer’s intent to support locally-based non-profit organizations that provide services within the City of Homer, and Kachemak City’s intent to support those organizations that provide services within the City of Homer that benefit the residents of Kachemak City.

Download application here

Deadline: February 21th, 2014


Youth Advisory Committee

The Homer Foundation’s Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) announces their new grant application process. YAC is a committee of the Homer Foundation, currently sponsored by Homer Middle School, whose mission is to promote philanthropy and improve the quality of life for the youth of our community. YAC is soliciting letters of intent from non-profit organizations that promote fun, healthy, and educational activities for youth in Homer. If your organization would like to apply for a grant, we invite you to submit a letter of intent not to exceed 2 pages. The letter should include the following:

  • The name of your organization
  • Tax exempt status
  • The name, phone number, and e-mail address of the contact person
  • A description of how your organization would use the YAC grant
  • The project’s total cost and how much you are asking from YAC
  • How your project is intended to benefit youth in Homer

All applicants will receive a response letter. Only selected organizations will be contacted by YAC representatives to complete the review process which may include a scheduled site visit. Final determinations will be made by April 30th. Awards shall range from $200 -$2,000.

For more information, contact Joy Steward at 235-0541, or e-mail at

Deadline: February 28th, 2014