Support 115 New Matches, Match4Match



“It’s finally happening! My dream!” ANTHONY, a fourth grader, had been anxiously waiting for a mentor for two years. Now that he found his match, he is excited to practice his English one-on-one without fear of embarrassment or failure.



With your help, we found Anthony’s match, as well as one for 114 other students like:

TREZURE, an active and social 1st grader, who loves dancing, volleyball and softball was matched with Rachel, a certified personal trainer. Together they love to play outside, building Lego towers, and reading books at our newest site, Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center.

KOMANI, a kind and playful 2nd grader, had been on the waitlist for two years at Burton Elementary. He loves basketball and was looking for a strong male role model. After an extensive search, we matched him with a former mentor and father of four, Eric. Together they play sports, games, and are goal setting!

We said “yes” to these kids but matching them with a mentor is just the beginning. We need your help to ensure students like Anthony, Trezure, and Komani receive ongoing match support that enables them to navigate the larger systems and effectively advocate for them and their families. You have the power to help unlock their potential, match4match.

Will you join us?

DONATE NOW


Wyoming Community Foundation Supports Expansion

By Rachel Humphreys

The Wyoming Community Foundation has awarded Affinity Mentoring a $2,750 grant to support expansion to Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center in Wyoming, MI. This award will be combined with the support from Molina Healthcare, Steelcase Foundation, and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation to:

  • Recruit, screen, train, and match 30 mentors with a student
  • Stock the Mentor Center with games, activities, crafts, books, and other resources
  • Provide ongoing match support to retain and support students and their mentors

So far, 17 kindergarteners and first graders have been matched with a mentor, but there is still a need. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, apply here.

The Wyoming Community Foundation,  a regional affiliate of Grand Rapids Community Foundation, evaluates local needs and opportunities and looks to fund projects that address the areas of art & culture, community development, education, environment, health, or social needs.


If you or your organization would like to support Affinity’s expansion to Wyoming please contact rhumphreys@affinitymentoring.org or check out our Community Partners Page.

Mars Hill Impact Tour

Join Affinity Mentoring for an evening to reflect on our journey to independence and future growth. The Mars Hill community has played a significant role in building, sustaining, and championing our mission to lift up children in a supportive network.

Come witness firsthand, the impact of your contributions of service and financial support. As a compelling force for good, we want to thank you for your devotion to the Burton families. There will be refreshments, a tour of the Burton Mentor Center, and a short presentation to share the measurable change you have made and where we’re headed next.

Date: Thursday, October 17, 2019
Time: 6pm-7:30pm
Location: Burton Elementary

RSVP HERE


Molina Healthcare Supports Affinity’s New Wyoming Site

Molina Healthcare has awarded Affinity Mentoring $2,500 to support expansion to Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center. Molina’s support will be used to help cover the cost of recruitment, screening, training, and ongoing match support for the new cohort of mentor matches.

“Molina Healthcare of Michigan is proud to support Affinity Mentoring’s new site at Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center. Affinity Mentoring is working to interrupt the cycle of poverty and improve the life of our communities children by pairing kindergartners and first graders with engaging mentors for one hour, once a week. We were impressed to learn that when pairing a child with a quality mentor the student has better attendance, attitudes toward school, chances of going onto higher education, more likely to avoid drug use, stronger relationships with their parents, and better health,” says Heidi McGlinnen AVP Community Engagement of Molina Healthcare of Michigan.

Heidi explains, “At Molina Healthcare, we share similar goals by working every day to reduce barriers to physical and behavioral health care for vulnerable populations. We are committed to working collaboratively with community-based organizations, like Affinity Mentoring, to create communities that are stronger, happier, and healthier.”

Mentor Center Ribbon Cutting at Godfrey-Lee ECC.

Affinity’s expansion to Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center was made possible with seed money from Steelcase Foundation, but it does not cover all of the costs. It is with continued support from individuals and organizations, like Molina and Dollar General, that the new site will be fully supported. [If you would like to help support, donate here.]

First Mentor Match at the ECC!

Approximately 30-40 new volunteers will be recruited, screened and trained in both mentoring and the fundamentals of early literacy. The volunteers will be matched with a student in Kindergarten, 1st or 2nd grade. The mentor will work in collaboration with the teacher and Site Coordinator to support the student in developing his/her literacy skills. The program will be evaluated by looking at number of matches involved, student achievement, student attendance and social emotional skill development. 

Molina’s Story
Affinity Mentoring and Molina Healthcare share many of the same values and are both looking to make a positive impact in under-resourced communities. Molina’s mission is to provide quality health care to people receiving government assistance. Molina was created to fill a need in quality healthcare.

In 1980, emergency room physician, C. David Molina, MD, noticed that low-income, uninsured or non-English speaking patients were coming to the emergency room in need of general health care services. Without family doctors, they were not always getting the right care and information. These underserved families deserved better and Dr. Molina set out to do something about it. He opened a clinic in Long Beach, California to provide low-income individuals and families with a place to go to get personalized health care from Molina doctors. Now, nearly 40 years later Molina has over 3.5 million members and serves communities across the United States.



The Godfrey-Lee site is still in need of more support, you can help!

Dollar General Literacy Foundation Awards Affinity New Grant

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation has awarded Affinity Mentoring a $3,000 grant to support youth literacy. This local grant award is part of more than $160 million in grants awarded to nonprofit organizations, libraries and schools across the 44 states that Dollar General serves.

Reading proficiency by 3rd grade is the most important indicator of high school graduation and career success. In 2017, 3rd grade M-STEP data for Kent County indicates that 48.6% of students have achieved proficiency. To help fill this gap, Affinity Mentoring is working alongside, schools, local businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals to lift up students in a supportive network.

The $3,000 grant will be used to support Affinity’s newest mentoring site at Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center in Wyoming, MI. The grant will aid in Affinity’s expansion and build capacity to recruit, train, and match more volunteers to be a caring, positive mentor and literacy support.

Approximately 30-40 new volunteers will be recruited, screened and trained in both mentoring and the fundamentals of early literacy. The volunteers will be matched with a student in Kindergarten, 1st or 2nd grade. The mentor will work in collaboration with the teacher and Site Coordinator to support the student in developing his/her literacy skills. The program will be evaluated by looking at number of matches involved, student achievement, student attendance and social emotional skill development. 

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation is proud to support initiatives that help others improve their lives through literacy and education. Since its inception in 1993, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation has awarded more than $168 million in grants to nonprofit organizations, helping more than 10 million individuals learn to read, prepare for the high school equivalency, or learn English. 



The Godfrey-Lee site is still in need of more support, you can help!

Affinity’s Back to School Wishlist

Help us stock our new mentoring site at Godfrey-Lee ECC and replenish our other sites. After 250+ students use our supplies and games each week we are always in need of a helping hand!


Check out our Amazon Wishlist for a full list of needs!


BOOKS

  • Spanish books K-2
  • English books K-2
  • Middle school books
  • Diverse + educational

CRAFTS

  • Pencils + colored pencils
  • Markers + crayons
  • Pom poms, pipe cleaner, buttons, sequins
  • Construction paper
  • Glue + glue sticks

GAMES

  • Legos
  • Uno
  • Sorry
  • Kerplunk
  • Math + reading games

OFFICE/OTHER

  • Table partitions [High Need]
  • 24 adult size chairs
  • Printer/scanner
  • Kleenex
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Hand sanitizer

OUTDOOR GAMES

  • Hula hoops
  • Soccer balls
  • Jump ropes
  • Basketballs
  • Footballs
  • Frisbees
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Cones

Thank you for your support!


Please send or drop off donations at: 3501 Fairlanes Ave SW, Grandville MI 49418

Contact: Rachel Lopez | rlopez@affinitymentoring or 616.406.3967

100 Days, 100 Mentors

Each year we have over 100 students on our waiting list, asking for mentors. With seed money from the Steelcase Foundation we are expanding to a 4th site this fall [Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center] to help meet that need.

But we need your help.

In the next 100 days, our goals are to recruit:

  • 100 new mentors
  • 100 match sponsors [to donate $10/month]

Will you join us?

Become a Mentor Match Sponsor 

Make a small, monthly contribution to Affinity. Your gift will not only help students academically, but it’ll also give them the social and emotional support they need to work towards a positive future.

Become a Mentor.

Sign up today to mentor one student for one hour week starting this fall and ask a friend to mentor too!

Affinity’s Match4Match Fund

 

Join Affinity Mentoring as we work to support our new cohort of 65 mentor matches, Match4Match!

Each year we have over 100 students on our waiting lists, anxious to see if this is the year they’ll get a mentor. With support from our community partners, volunteers, and generous donors we were able to recruit, screen, train, and match 65 mentors with a student!

We matched students like:
Kimberly, a friendly 4th grader, always has a beautiful smile on her face. She likes to play outside on the monkey bars. Her favorite subjects are Science and Math. When we asked her what she thought of her new mentor she responded with a big smile, “Emily is good, she is special to me.”

Angel is a quiet 3rd grader. His new mentor, Luis, has been helping him to become more talkative. Luis likes to ask Angel questions to engage him in conversation and boost his confidence.

Making the match was only the beginning…

Now, it is our goal to raise $10,000 by December 31st to ensure each of these new matches receive the ongoing match support (supplies, training, family engagement, books, etc.) needed to have a successful year!

 

Will you join us?

Any size donation helps support our students. If we can all give a little of our time, talent, and treasure, together we can make a big impact!

 

Checks

Please make checks payable to: Affinity Mentoring

Affinity Mentoring
3501 Fairlanes Ave SW
Grandville, MI 49418

Leading by Example: Mentor, Donor, Partner

 

Leading by Example | Board Member, Mentor, and Community Partner
By Rachel Lopez

Jason Loepp is a father of two young children. He and his wife, Heather, are from the East side of Michigan and lived in Tennessee for several years. In 2008 they moved back to Michigan to be closer to family, which is when Jason joined the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) team.

Leadership at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
Over the past 10 years Jason has worked his way up from Individual Contributor to Director of West MI/UP Customer Consulting and Reporting at BCBSM. He enjoys being an active member of the community and taking part in local events. One of those events was a “Friends of Burton” at Burton Elementary – which is where he was first introduced to Affinity Mentoring.

“Being a father of two kids – I understand homework and the extra need and push.” He instantly connected with Affinity Mentoring and the message resonated with him. “Hearing about the need tears at your heart. I came back to the office and drummed up more support. I recruited 4 or 5 more mentors.”

That was 4 years ago. The partnership between BCBSM and Affinity is growing stronger each year. This year 8 employees from BCBSM are volunteering weekly as mentors. “I’m a big believer in the program, I try to get as many people involved as possible,” says Jason. A large part of the growth is through word-of-mouth and employees returning from mentoring talking about their experience.

“People started getting involved in small events, like the Secret Santa Workshop, and I talk to my co-workers about mentoring. People want to get involved. It starts with one day, so what’s one hour per week?”

Weekly Mentoring
Jason, a mentor himself, has been working with Angel for the past 4 years. “We’re both competitive. We play a lot of Uno – but add math into it. The first one to get 100 points loses. I think I’m the proud reigning champion, but you can say he is. The first time he beat me he was so geeked,” chuckles Jason.

“I usually go on Friday mornings so I can be in my jeans and relaxed. We usually spend some time in the library and pick out a book. The last one he picked was about Abraham Lincoln, so I picked out an encyclopedia to see what else I could find about him. Then we talk about it more. I’m a nerd like that.”

Jason explains that Affinity aligns with many of his company’s values, “We like to do things that are athletic. It’s important to get kids out and active. BCBSM has a campaign to get kids active 60 minutes a day – if I can help get 20 minutes of those, that’s great. Angel loves soccer so we’ll sneak out onto the field to kick the ball around.”

Board Member
Jason wears many hats and is involved with Affinity at different levels – partner, mentor, and board member. “The people involved in Affinity’s leadership and their employees make a difference. They are there. It’s a hands on organization, in every level. They have a pulse on what’s going on,” comments Jason.

As a board member, he loves to get other people excited about the mission, share his experiences, and the personal benefits mentoring offers. “I think at work, it gives people from different areas of the company something in common. At home, it’s interesting that my mentee and son are both in 6th grade. It helps me make sure I’m holding my son accountable in his homework too.”

Community Partner
Jason has led the partnership between Affinity and BCBSM, they are big believers in mentoring and are in it for the long-haul, “As long as we’re here in GR we will always have people that want to mentor. To see the happiness of the kids – that’s what it’s all about. We are going to support local organizations that make a profound impact on children and Affinity does that. We’d like to get two more mentors each year.”

Not only do their employees donate their time, but the company also donates their “treasure.” As a partner, BCBSM has committed to covering half of the cost of each of their employees’ mentor match ($600 per match). “[Mentoring] is not free – the cost of supporting a match for a year. There’s a cost the run the program and we wanted to be able to support, not just the talent, but the time and treasure. We’d like other organizations to also donate their time, talent, and treasure. These kids are our future so let’s invest in them now,” says Jason.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out our Mentorship Opportunities and Community Partnerships.

To Affinity and Beyond

An interview with Affinity Mentoring’s Executive Director, Laura Ward, about Affinity’s Journey to Independence.

 

Affinity’s Journey

In 2001 Mars Hill Bible Church launched the Mars Hill Mentorship Program at Burton Elementary with 8 matches under the umbrella of Kids Hope USA’s “one church, one school” mentorship model. Over the years, this program grew to serve more than 150 matches a year and had a large network of support and passionate volunteers. However, there was still a greater need for more mentors and more schools.

With 15 years of experience and a deep desire to become more inclusive and diverse, Affinity Mentoring was born as a 501c3 independent nonprofit in 2016. Affinity’s vision was to broaden our impact by engaging more schools, serving more students, diversifying our team, and cultivating relationships with more community partners.

As we begin a new school year we wanted to reflect on where we’ve been and where we want to go. So we sat down with our Executive Director, Laura Ward to hear more about Affinity’s journey to independence. In the last 4 years Affinity has:

  • established a board of directors,
  • received 501(c)(3) nonprofit status,
  • transitioned operations to Affinity (accounting, bookkeeping, and became its own employer of record),
  • developed a recurring giving program, and
  • secured more sustainable funding to replace Mars Hill funding.

 

Expanded Community Partnerships

“We believe community collaborations build stronger communities. We’ve gone from a few to more than 20. What we’ve seen is that one person volunteers to mentor and then they share that experience with a co-worker or supervisor. Soon after it starts to spread organically throughout the department and organization,” says Laura.

“I’m excited to see is that businesses are looking for tangible ways to deepen relationships in the community in a lasting and deep impactful way. Mentoring is one way to do that,” explains Laura. “What we’ve seen from our partners is that people are really enjoying the experience. They are connecting more deeply with the community, a widened world-view, and are meeting more people from their own organization from different departments.”

 

Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

Affinity staff: Monica Zavala and Angela Reyna

At Affinity’s core is the belief that it takes all of us to lift up students in a supportive network. Laura states, “It’s really important that all kids know who they are and what they want to be regardless of what society tells them. Our job is to listen and journey with them to help them discover that for themselves.” Affinity understands mentoring is not the “silver bullet” but a small piece of the puzzle.

“As kids are growing and developing they’re discovering where they belong and who they are. It’s so important for them to have someone to journey with them that has had similar experiences. With the right support, students can see they don’t have to give up their native language or culture in order to belong and be successful,” explains Laura.

Strategic Plan Summary

Following our Strategic Plan, we have attracted and retained more diverse mentors, staff, and board members. “Our team right now is awesome,” smiles Laura. “Our whole team speaks Spanish and have a background in social work, nonprofit management, and/or community engagement. Several members of our team grew up in the neighborhoods where we work.”

“We’ve only had our board for a year and half, and to grow the board to 10 people and have it as diverse as it is is amazing. They are so dedicated and astute. They ask good questions and they’re invested. They’re always thinking about the here and now as well as the long­term vision and how to get there.”

 

Long-term Sustainability

Before entering this journey to independence our mentorship program was fully funded through Mars Hill. “Our independence means that Mars Hill is now a community partner instead of a parent organization,” explains Laura. “This next year is Affinity’s last year in the five year transition plan (the grant from Mars Hill ends in June 2020). As we grow and expand we are working on increasing funding from other sources to replace this grant funding and overall lessen our need on grants in general,” says Laura.

2017-2018 Revenue Sources

“We’ve gone from one revenue stream to five. It’s on my mind on a daily basis. The one thing we know is there’s needs to be diverse revenue streams. It’s been a heavy lift,” she explains.

“Getting Herman Miller Cares and Wege Foundation funding was a huge win. Because we’re working with kids and our work is so relational the funding needs to be sustainable. We can’t expand to another site until we’ve secured more sustainable funding,” Laura remarks.

 

The Future of Affinity

“There is plenty of research to show that mentoring doesn’t work – QUALITY mentoring works,” Laura explains.

Increasing Affinity’s organizational capacity is one of the key focus areas because there is a high demand for mentoring services, “it’s a balance between quantity and quality,” says Laura.

“My dream is for Affinity to be to provide mentoring for youth, throughout West Michigan, all the way through their educational experience, and even post-secondary,” says Laura.

Affinity is currently developing an expansion plan by identifying what are the next schools we’ll expand to and creating a strategic plan. Our hope is that we will be able to add a 4th school partnership by next fall. Then be able to add more schools in a regular rhythm.

 

Champion Affinity In Your Own Way

As we continue on our path toward sustainability and expansion, we need your continued support. Nearly 1⁄4 of our funding comes from individuals giving monthly. It may seem a small or insignificant, but we can assure you it’s not. Monthly match sponsors provide dependable sustainable funding to ensure participants experience quality mentoring.

Thank you all for your continued support, partnership, and love!