January is National Mentoring Month. So if you ever thought about being a mentor – or even if you haven’t – now is the perfect time. And JF&CS has the perfect opportunity to be one. We call it being a PAL.
A PAL is a loving Jewish adult volunteer who shares a one-to-one mentoring relationship with a child in need of a role model. Big PALs provide friendship and support, and make a huge difference in the lives of their little PALs – and vice versa.
“Mentoring with the PAL program gives Jewish children a chance to learn from incredible Jewish adult volunteers,” says Danielle Steinhart, LCSW, PAL Program Coordinator. “For the children in PAL, they are given an opportunity to know there are adults, in addition to family, who really care about them.”
Cara Gurney can attest to the wonders of being a PAL. She joined the program three years ago and has been paired with her current little PAL, Marlee, for the past four months. Cara has enjoyed being a big PAL, and says that “things are going really well” with her little PAL. They have done a number of fun things together, including watching a production of The Nutcracker, a shopping excursion, a trip to the dog park, roller skating and baking. Both Cara and Marlee have enjoyed getting to know each other these past few months. “I have fun doing kid stuff,” Cara says. “I also want to be able to be there for her and to give her good advice.” Cara has gotten great feedback from Marlee’s family, and she is excited to continue spending time with her.
In addition to being a PAL, Cara has been a frequent and dedicated participant of VIA (Volunteers in Action), JF&CS’ young professionals group, for several years. One of her favorite projects has been the art parties with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – an experience she finds “very rewarding.” She helped out with one of this year’s JF&CS Mitzvah Day projects at the Genesis Shelter, and she has continued to volunteer there. Cara also will be a team captain for VIA for the upcoming Hunger Walk in March.
Cara loves to donate her time to experiences she finds meaningful and fun. When she is not hanging out with her little PAL or contributing to one of many VIA projects, Cara loves to travel. She works as an anesthesiology P.A. here in Atlanta.