Mentor Rhode Island is moving forward with a fundraising campaign to raise “emergency gap funding” in order to run their mentoring program in the Warwick Public Schools as was regularly scheduled prior to their funding being cut during schools budget proceedings this summer.
“One thing that the Mayor, Warwick City Council, Warwick School Committee and Superintendent all agree on…The Warwick Mentor Program is too valuable to lose,” Jo-Ann Schofield, President and CEO of Mentor Rhode Island, said in a press release. “What we don’t have is a financial commitment as the parties continue to negotiate their budget woes. And depending on the track taken, we may not know anything until December or January. I will not let our kids be casualties of adults not being able to come to an agreement.”
The Mentor Rhode Island program services 160 kids in need of positive adult role models in their lives through once-weekly, one-hour visits with volunteer mentors who meet with students during their school days throughout the district’s public school buildings.
The program requires about $102,000 to operate, which pays for two program coordinators who screen and train mentors, find matches for the volunteers and act as facilitators and advisers between the hundreds of mentor/mentee pairs during the year.
Due to the budgetary conflict between the Warwick City Council and the Warwick School Department, the schools needed to find $6.6 million through budgetary cuts to balance their budget, and Mentor Rhode Island’s funding fell victim to those cuts. The issue has generated protest from advocates for the mentor program, and has drawn staff and mentors to municipal meetings to lobby for funding to be found to restore the program, either from the city side or the school side.
While the budget situation is ongoing, with the next appearance of the school department before the city council coming on Monday, Sept. 17, Schofield launched the fundraising campaign today as it cannot be guaranteed if or when any eventual funding would be available.
“We believe that all Warwick officials want to do what is right for our kids,” a message sent last week to the program’s mentors reads. “However, it seems that we may not have a resolution until December, if the City Council and School Committee do not come to an agreement in the next few weeks.”
To compound on their fundraising effort, attendees of a benefit event held last year in honor of John Howell, Beacon Communications publisher and founding board chair of Mentor Rhode Island’s predecessor organization (Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership), will be receiving a mailer asking for a match from their donation at that event, which directly benefited Mentor Rhode Island.
While the nonprofit organization hopes to garner enough funding to keep the current mentor/mentee pairs supported, they will not be accepting new mentors and mentees in Warwick until funding is restored.
“Exceptions will be made only in the cases of veteran mentors who lose their mentees to the normal attrition the program experiences and are seeking to be re-matched,” the release states.
Those wishing to support Mentor Rhode Island can visit their fundraising page at mentorri.org/save-warwick/ or send a check with “Warwick Funding” in the memo line to MENTOR Rhode Island, 2065 Warwick Avenue, Unit 1, Warwick, RI 02889.