Barbara McMillon holds a busy job with Monroe County and has raised four sons. Yet for four years she has given her time to a special friendship with fifteen-year-old Samuel, a participant in our Youth Program.
Barbara learned the value of Compeer friendships when her own sons were matched with mentors. She also participated in some of the activities and events offered to families. She specifically recalls knitting and other craft classes. “Two of my grown sons, now many years later, still connect with their Compeer volunteer from time to time,” Barbara says. “The friendships they forged will last a lifetime.”
In 2011, with her own children grown to adulthood, and with the positive memories of their Compeer experience still fresh, Barbara decided to get involved again with Compeer—this time as a mentor to a youth. As the result of a shortage of available male volunteers at the time (a shortage that persists today), Barbara was matched with a young man—Samuel—who was struggling with the impact of his father’s recent incarceration.
It took time for the friendship to develop. Samuel says, “I was nervous when we first met because I didn’t know her. I really needed help coping with losing one of my parents.” Barbara and Samuel committed to the friendship and to ‘stay the course.’ This commitment exemplifies Barbara’s patience and resolve, and Samuel’s fortitude and maturity. “Now I’m really attached to her. She’s like a family member,” Samuel says.
The match has progressed very well. Barbara enjoys the hug each time they get together. She adds that the trust in and meaning of their relationship had definitely deepened over time. “I feel that when I ask him a question about whatever is going on in his life that is negative or challenging, he answers me truthfully,” Barbara says. “He’s open to my support and help. I know he appreciates it and takes it to heart.” Adds Samuel, “She gives me good advice and she really cares about me like I was her own son.”
Samuel’s mother supports Barbara’s friendship with her son, and the two talk frequently. “She feels free to tell me what is going on with Samuel as the need arises,” says Barbara, “whether it is a challenge he’s having at home or at school.” The two women have developed a very good relationship that has also helped Samuel understand the many challenges that his mother is facing.
Barbara and Samuel both enjoy going to movies and fishing, and recently tried bowling. “He enjoyed beating me,” Barbara says. “He was grinning from ear to ear.” And when Samuel reported proudly that he’d made honor roll at school: “I took him right to Game Stop and let him pick out a video game. I was beaming, very proud of his accomplishment.”
Barbara says that Compeer Rochester makes the connection between mentor and mentee, and then continuously supports the match so their connection to each other strengthens and grows. “Whenever I need anyone at Compeer for anything, I always feel comfortable and receive the answers I need, whether it’s formal training or just an ear to hear a concern or question,” she says.
“Compeer is a great organization that provides so many services to individuals and their families that are in need, and so much competent and sincere support to its volunteers.”
Adds Samuel: “I am so grateful that Compeer Rochester exists to give kids like me someone to count on when a parent can’t be there.”