January is National Mentoring Month, and the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region is celebrating the positive effect mentors have on community members and our community overall.
Many mentors, including Julie Keller, executive director of the Women’s Fund, said they get back just as much as they put into a relationship with their mentee.
Here is what several members of the Community Foundation’s board of directors and staff members (and one of their mentors) had to say about mentoring.
Julie Keller, Women’s Fund Executive Director:
“Being a mentor can profoundly impact your life. In my early professional years in New York, I decided to volunteer at the Children’s Advocacy Center of Manhattan. I was paired with a 10-year-old girl from the Bronx, residing in public housing known as ‘the projects.’ While most of our meetings took place at the office, one memorable Saturday, we embarked on a trip to the Natural History Museum. Although museum field trips were fairly common for New York City school-aged kids, it was a first for her, and witnessing her awe was truly remarkable. This experience prompted a reevaluation of my career path, serving as a pivotal moment that inspired me to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector. While I may have broadened her horizons, she, in turn, had an even greater impact on me.”
Mike Van Asten, Community Foundation Board Member:
“Martin Luther King, Jr. stressed the importance of taking individual responsibility for the formation and growth of our minds and inner self. But we don’t achieve our highest aspirations on our own. The wisdom and guidance we receive from mentors, combined with personal discernment, learning and motivation shape the development of our unique vocation.”
Lisa Strandberg, Executive Director of Pillars:
“We all need mentorship at every stage of our careers. Having a wonderful mentor in Marta Weldon, whose work and way of being I admired, led me to accept the opportunity to serve the Association of Fundraising Professionals Northeast Wisconsin Chapter as its Mentorship Chair – which led me to Megan (Schuessler). Mentorship is a two-way street in which the mentor and the mentored benefit equally. In Megan’s and my case, we both get an hour of exercise each month! But the mutuality goes much deeper than that. Mentoring creates an opportunity to reflect on and integrate your own experience, making meaning in a way that begets wisdom. When we walk our paths reaching both forward and back to be supported and to support others along the way, the whole community benefits.”
Megan Schuessler, Assistant Vice President, Donor Services & Gift Planning with the Community Foundation
“I am grateful for the various mentors and leaders I’ve had who saw the potential in me and challenged me to take on new roles and projects, many times when I myself didn’t think I was ready for them. One of my most treasured relationships is with my current mentor, Lisa Strandberg. I was so fortunate to have been paired with her through the Association of Fundraising Professionals when I leaped from marketing to fundraising in 2018, and as our employers and roles have changed since then, we have continued our relationship. Lisa taught me how to have tough conversations, with both others and myself, so that I and the organizations we represent can reach our full potential and I can be the best leader I can be for our team and community. She also taught me that with the numerous demands placed on nonprofit professionals and working parents who also have hobbies, families and friendships to nurture, you fit things in when you can. As a result, we’ve turned our meetings into walking meetings, hitting the trails around us to fit in some exercise and professional development. I admire Lisa’s courage and tenacity and I don’t know where I’d be without her!”
Michelle Schuler, Community Foundation Board Member:
“Mentors reveal the hidden potential within you, their belief serving as a guiding light. It’s only when you lend an ear to their wisdom and embark on your journey of learning that you uncover the profound impact of their steadfast support.”
David Weiss, Nonprofit Leadership Initiative Executive Director
“As the beneficiary of mentoring and having the privilege of being a mentor, I have seen and experienced how another’s perspective can help shine a new light on a problem, uncovering a hidden solution that makes all the difference in the world. I have found that many of the people I have looked up to when asked (and it took a while for me to build up the courage to ask) are happy to share and invest in those willing to learn. My challenge to you is to ask and be open to sharing your life experience with someone brave enough to ask. NPLI’s Nancy Heykes and Kim O’Brien have been two mentors in my life who were willing to invest in a snot-nosed kid, new to this nonprofit world. I am forever thankful for their (continued) investment in me.”