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Bahr hands over Kinship keys – Director moving to Cedar Rapids

By Staff | Dec 21, 2007

ESTHERVILLE–Jan Bahr’s feet don’t look all that big, but Hillary Clarey is going to have quite a set of shoes to fill when she takes over as Emmet County Kinship director Jan. 2.

Bahr, who served at Iowa Lakes Community College before taking the helm as Emmet County Kinship executive director October 2006, is moving to Cedar Rapids to pursue other opportunities. Meanwhile, she can look back with satisfaction as what has happened with Emmet County Kinship since its reinception just under two years ago.

To date, 21 matches have been made between children and adult mentors. And it’s been a win-win for everyone.

Bahr said communication lines have been built between families and mentors through the Kinship office. In addition to adult mentors spending one hour a week with each Kinship child, major events this past year have included a rollerskating party this spring, a summer campout at Fort Defiance State Park, and a hayride at Wolden campground.

“With each event, we got better and better participation,” Bahr said. The idea behind the group events is to invite children and their families to participate with mentors and their families in a social setting.

This past year, Emmet County Kinship also participated in two service projects. They made pillows for CAASA and did an adopt-a-highway project along Highway 9 from Gruver and two miles east. Such projects teach children how to respect the environment and how to give to others, Bahr said.

The Summer Smiles program this past summer offered Kinship children a chance to participate in cultural activities in the Lakes area. Some Kinship families also had the chance to go to Minneapolis to see a Twins game.

Kinship also hosted two fundraising events to bring funds into the program. Board members and mentors sold value cards and held a golf outing, both events which involved the community at large.

“Being a nonprofit organization, we have to ask the community for help in maintaining the program,” Bahr said. Such projects help Kinship become self-sustaining so it can continue to help match youth with adult mentors.

Emmet County Kinship still has children on its wait list awaiting adult mentors. Mentors agree to spend one hour a week for a year with each Kin child. Perks and discounts are available so mentors and children can participate together in recreational events.

In terms of an investment, Kinship pays off very well. Bahr said for every dollar spent on Kinship and similar mentoring programs, $2.72 is returned and five dollars is returned in savings in youth intervention programs.

So which children can benefit from Kinship?

“Children that could benefit by having an adult role model in their life,” Bahr said. That role model could include someone that could fill in a role as parent or grandparent. One example might be children who have a parent deployed overseas in the military.

Children may be referred to Kinship by family, service agencies, or the faith community.

“It’s a win-win situation for the child and the adult,” Bahr said.

Mentors are screened for children’s safety. Those screenings include background checks, the sexual abuse registry, criminal investigative bureau, and the Department of Motor Vehicles. Mentors also provide three references and complete an application before undergoing orientation training. The mentor will also have two training activities each year.

“All of that is part of the process to become a mentor,” Bahr said. A three-way agreement is then signed with the child, parents, and mentor.

Children may be anywhere from prekindergarten through a high-school senior. They must live in Emmet County. Mentors may live outside Emmet County but are matched with a child living within the county.

“It’s given very positive results,” Bahr said.

To become a Kinship mentor, call Emmet County Kinship at (712) 362-2828.

Contact Michael Tidemann at (712) 362-2622 or mtidemann@esthervilledailynews.com and visit our photo sharing Web site at cu.esthervilledailynews.com