Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanks and Giving

At 8am on Thanksgiving morning I met for coffee with a middle age man named Leo Hall. Leo lives in Nashville, TN, makes videos and is a substitute teacher. He has two great boys and a wonderful wife.

What made this event special?

I first met Leo almost 33 years ago when he was in 4th grade, attending an elementary school in the Cabrini-Green area of Chicago. I was a first year employee working in the Advertising Department of the Montgomery Ward corporate headquarters of Chicago. In the fall of 1973 I became a volunteer tutor with the Montgomery Ward Cabrini Green Tutoring Program in Chicago. I was assigned to work with Leo. We met every Tuesday night during that 1973-74 school year, and for the next several years.

In the years since then, I've attended every graduation of Leo's, including 8th grade, high school and college.

Leo sent me an email Tuesday, telling me he was coming to Chicago, and that he wanted to meet with me. He made special arrangements to be able to join me on Thursday morning, just as I did.

We have stayed in contact for 33 years, although we've not seen each other for about six years. Since he was coming to Chicago he wanted to make sure he saw me.

He wanted to say "thanks" for me being his mentor for all of these years.

While I accepted his "thanks" I also offered my own. I said "thanks" for him letting me be part of his life, and for all of the ways this involvement has become my life in the years since then.

When I write about tutoring/mentoring and the infrastructure needed to support such programs, I'm thinking about what it took for Leo and I to first meet in 1973, and to stay connected for all of these years. If some volunteers had not made the weekly commitment for the Wards program to operate, we never would have met. If donors had not provide enough dollars to operate every year, we would not have been able to stay connected. He could not have found me, or me him, if Cabrini Connections were not a home, that connects us, and many others, to each other.

As you do your holiday charitable giving, I encourage you to made a donation to a volunteer-based tutor/mentor program like Cabrini Connections so you can help us continue to make these connections between youth like Leo and adults like me.

If you view the Chicago Programs Links at the Tutor/Mentor Connection web site, you'll find web site links for Cabrini Connections and for many other Chicago organizations that offer various forms of tutoring and/or mentoring. You can use these to choose places where you might want to make a donation or become a volunteer in the coming year.

We all give thanks for the richness that mentoring has added to our lives. We hope that through your giving we'll be able to continue this work for many more years.

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