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Kinship works to stays active amid pandemic

COMFY QUILT— Kinship of Martin County participant Jovie Rogge holds up one of several quilts donated to the program by St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Sherburn. (Photo courtesy Sarah Caballero)

FAIRMONT — Like many organizations, Kinship of Martin County has found ways to adapt to the COVID-19 landscape.

Associate director Sarah Caballero notes that the program is thriving, but still in need of mentors.

“We have had some chances to get out in the community and do some activities,” she said. “Most recently, we did our annual picnic out at the yacht club, and they actually sponsored that, as far as lending us the building and the facilities for free. So we’re very thankful for that. We had over 80 participants, and were able to enact social distancing. Everybody wore masks and it was really successful.

“Also, St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Sherburn donated a quilt for each of our kids, not only our matched kids, but each of our kids on the waiting list. They donated over 100 quilts in total, which we appreciated.

“We interviewed another eight kids in our program, so we are up to a total of 35 kids on our waiting list and 44 matches,” she said.

“We are interested in volunteers. The time commitment is small and it’s just doing everyday things you love to do like going fishing, going for walks, or maybe an art project or something like that. It’s bringing a kid alongside you with stuff you already like to do.”

Caballero said the program has seen an increase in mentors, but notes there is still a need for more because of the waiting list.

“Originally when COVID started, we upped our game by putting all of our waiting list kids on a pen pal list, and we had volunteers signed up to write to every one of our kids that wanted one,” she said. “We were also still taking in mentors, and we used Zoom meetings to train them.

“We’ve had seven mentors volunteer while we were going through COVID, and that’s pretty big for us even if we weren’t dealing with that. We had a good steady pace for a bit, but as we’re getting more matches, we’re getting more mentees too.

Caballero said families and children involved in the program have opened up about some of their frustrations with COVID-19, but have been encouraged with some unique activities.

“Some of the responses from kids about staying home and having to do e-learning have said that it’s been a real struggle,” she said. “We’ve had parents saying that there’s not enough for their kids to do, and they’re begging for activities because there’s not much going on.

“The county donated a bunch of masks to our program, and the kids are given a free mask at each event. We’ve got mask decorating things that we’ve been doing, and they’ve been making the masks their own. So they’re really getting into it.”

Caballero said there is a need for male and female mentors, but the need for male mentors is a bit higher. Those interested can look for Kinship of Martin County on Facebook, or call (507) 238-4440.

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