Bergen County Volunteers Acknowledged During National Mentor Month

The Volunteer Center of Bergen County recently thanked the volunteers in its Mentoring Youth Program at a breakfast held in celebration of January’s National Mentoring Month.

The Mentoring Youth Program trains and supervises adult volunteers to serve as mentors to children confronting adverse challenges, social, emotional or behavioral problems, at home and in life. The 85 mentors in the program are positive role models, providing guidance, friendship and support, as well as advocacy on behalf of the children when necessary. Three volunteers were recognized during National Mentoring Month for their long standing commitment to Mentoring Youth:

Solange Griffith-Ruff of Teaneck has been a mentor for 15 years and, during that time, has been a friend to three different children.

Faith Samples-Smart, Program Director for Mentoring Youth, says, “Solange brings tremendous patience and understanding to her role as mentor. She has maintained active mentoring relationships with youth ranging from several months to several years, working with both boys and girls during her tenure with Mentoring Youth. The results of her positive influence have been clear in each instance”.

Ruth Schneider of Ramsey has mentored as many as seven children during her 19 years with the program. Ruth’s most recent mentoring experience spanned 10 years, as she watched a young girl develop into a young lady. Ms. Samples-Smart observes, “At 83, one would think Ruth is ready to throw in the towel and relax a bit. Instead, Ruth is patiently waiting to be matched with yet another child to whom she can provide friendship and support.”

Ralph Ripkema of Lodi has the distinction of having been a mentor for 28 years. He has helped ten children along the way. Ralph believes that success in school helps establish a foundation for children that have the potential to change their lives. Ms. Samples-Smart praises his commitment: “He has a tremendous devotion to giving and maintains ongoing relationships with each youth he has mentored along the way. Ralph is currently in his 10th mentoring match.

The mentoring relationship reflects a bond that has spanned 3 years and moves forward on a strong foundation of friendship.” There continues to be a great need for mentors throughout Bergen County, both in the Mentoring Youth program and in the Mentoring Moms program, also sponsored by the Volunteer Center. Mentoring Moms are women who make a difference in the lives of isolated and overwhelmed mothers and their children, by spending time with mothers who experienced difficulty in coping with parenting, managing households, providing for their children or other obstacles. A free six-week, 15 hour training program is provided to mentors in both programs. During this time, the volunteers learn about child development, child maltreatment and resilience in children and families; develop effective listening and communication skills; and learn to facilitate problem solving. Guest speakers such as current mentors and social service case workers share their experiences so that new mentors have the background and knowledge needed to help support their mentees. All mentors undergo a comprehensive screening process which includes fingerprinting and other background checks. For more information about becoming a mentor and to find out when the next training sessions will be held, call the Volunteer Center of Bergen County at (201) 489-9454, or visit their website at and click on Bergen Mentors.

Founded by the Junior League in 1966, the mission of the Volunteer Center is to strengthen the community by connecting people with opportunities to serve, operating direct service volunteer programs, building capacity for effective volunteering, and participating in strategic partnerships that meet community needs.