The bonds formed among a pair of mentors and a single mom made all the difference as they worked together to improve the family's circumstances.
In the fall of 2018, Toni Memmel and Mary Weber teamed up to serve as volunteer mentors for “Lori,” who had just been accepted into the two-year Faith Community Homes program with her children. Mentor meetings with Lori primarily took place every week at the public library. Once the pandemic hit, their meetings moved to Zoom.
The relationship among these three women began with a series of to-do lists to help Lori get back on her feet. The mentors put a strong emphasis on tracking income and expenses, getting caught up on overdue bills, and taking advantage of assistance from other community agencies.
Over time, Lori and her mentors developed a much closer relationship. Memmel and Weber eventually met all four of Lori’s children and appreciated getting to know the family better. Their coaching moved from strictly financial to more personal, including helping Lori learn to better advocate for herself in the workplace.
Lori commented many times that she appreciated how much her mentors grew to care about her and her family. Thanks to her mentors’ consistent encouragement, Lori’s self-esteem improved. These positive interactions and resulting successes undoubtedly worked to prepare Lori to continue to do well in the future.
As she reflected on her time mentoring the family, Weber wrote: “My relationship with Lori is my most important accomplishment. We have trust and respect for each other. I am so proud of the strong woman she has become. Witnessing her wonderful character, selfless hard work and loving nature is so rewarding.”
In the final evaluation meeting, Memmel gave Lori this advice for moving forward on her own: “You can do this! Keep using the steps you have learned to keep yourself on track. If you ever doubt yourself, just think back to how far you have come in two years. You are amazing!”
Memmel and Weber experienced something many Faith Community Homes mentors come to realize: the benefits of mentoring are reciprocal. “It wasn’t just Lori who was ‘educated,’” commented Weber. “Toni and I learned so much from her and were inspired. We gained a better understanding of what poverty looks like and the extreme hard work it takes to pull yourself out. I like to think that, because of Lori, we are better people.”
Memmel and Weber did not know each other before serving as mentors together. Now, they are friends and look forward to working together as mentors for another Faith Community Homes family.