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Kinship seeks mentors

Though Perham and Park Rapids have had very successful Kinship youth mentoring programs for several years, there hasn’t been one in Detroit Lakes … until now.

The Lakes Crisis & Resource Center has joined forces with Arvig to start Lakes Area Kinship.

Kinship is a volunteer mentoring program where kids from age 5 to 16 will be partnered with adult mentors, age 18 and above, who are tasked with offering those kids the kind of warm, supportive adult companionship that they might otherwise lack in their day-to-day lives.

“We saw a need for kids in this community to have healthy, adult role models,” says Susie Felt, the director of Lakes Area Kinship.

Though Felt also works as a children’s services coordinator at Lakes Crisis & Resource Center, she was quick to emphasize that Kinship is intended to be a “community-wide program,” open not just to kids who are clients of LCRC, but to all youth in the Detroit Lakes area.

“We’re just getting off the ground,” she said of the volunteer program.

Currently, Felt and the Kinship advisory board are in the process of reviewing mentor applications.

“We meet once a month,” Felt said of the advisory board.

The goal of the Kinship program, as stated in its informational brochure, is “to improve children’s lives by establishing quality relationships between children and caring volunteers, for the purpose of promoting stability, support, friendship and community. We do this through mentoring relationships.”

Youth between the ages of 5-16 are referred to the Kinship program through local schools, parents or other service agencies like LCRC, Felt said.

Their parents may or may not live with them — Kinship mentors are not intended to be parent substitutes, but “adult friends” who spend time with the kids in inexpensive or no-cost activities.

“Elaborate presents or costly events would be frowned upon,” says the informational brochure.

Some suggested activities include fishing and hiking, sewing or knitting, working on puzzles, washing cars, going to a movie or baking cookies together.

The mentor, through the activities they enjoy together, should:

  • Help a child discover and develop his or her strengths;
  • ecome a reliable and dependable friend;
  • Listen and offer emotional support to a child in a non-judgmental manner;
  • Share relevant experiences from their own life;
  • Suggest and encourage use of community resources;
  • Establish trust and friendship;
  • Listen to and stand by a child through joys and frustrations;
  • Keep confidentiality regarding anything the child shares with them.

Couples and families are encouraged to join the program, and involve the youth they are mentoring in the activities they normally enjoy together.

Mentors are required to share a minimum of one hour per week with their Kinship child, Felt said, and must be able to commit to participate for at least one year — but most activities they would engage in together will easily exceed the minimum time requirement, and the relationships that are built between them can last much longer than a year.

For more information about Lakes Area Kinship, please call Susie Felt at 218-847-8572, e-mail her at, or send a letter to Lakes Area Kinship, P.O. Box 394, Detroit Lakes MN 56502.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454