Length of volunteering (years): 1

How did you first get involved with FA: I found the organization when I was looking for groups to donate the foster care tax credit to. I had been looking for a non-profit to volunteer with and the Free Arts mission spoke to a variety of my interests so I joined.

Why Mentor: I care about the arts, foster and homeless kids and emotional healing and renewal. It is the perfect fit.

What do you look forward to: Making connections with the kids, seeing their excitement when I arrive and knowing they look forward to a fun time together.

What impact are we making: Free Arts provides foster and homeless kids an encouraging, safe space to express themselves and in some cases share and work through difficult emotions and pasts. The program surrounds kids with positive adult interactions that model healthy relationships.

What sets Free Arts apart: The program is incredibly well-organized. The staffers are very closely involved with volunteers¬† — knowing our first names and interests, staying in touch with us and trying hard to meet our preferences and needs. I feel confident that every dollar and hour put toward the organization is used well.

Reward: Hip hop camp was exhausting but such a cool experience. I plan to do it again next year. One girl asked me for help on a poem about a woman in an abusive romantic relationship. Later that day, on the way to the bathroom, the girl shared with me about a recent incident when her mother’s abusive ex-boyfriend broke into the house with a gun. The poem was an anonymous third-person expression of the very personal fear and pain she was going through. I was glad to have been able to listen and encourage her.

Challenge: In mentoring, it can be a challenge to keep on task a rambunctious group of kids. I’m usually exhausted after just an hour! Salvation Army was difficult because there were lots of kids of different ages that are not always regulars since it is a transient shelter population and the staff was not very actively involved.