As we enter 2013 on economically shaky ground, we reflect on the past five years of recession which resulted in many of us getting an unexpected and unwanted firsthand view of poverty.

As Americans, we have weathered tough times before and rallied to see brighter days. Our indomitable American spirit is legendary, giving us the strength to strive toward the brighter days ahead. I’m writing to remind readers that there is a way to help. The power of mentoring holds the potential to help our community rise above these difficult times. It costs nothing but your time, experience, strength and hope.
The positive impact of mentoring throughout history is without doubt. Our American story has been shaped by powerful leaders who credit mentors with shaping their character. A supportive mentor can mean the difference between struggle and success. We, as individuals, have the ability to help our neighbors unlock their full potential through care, guidance, and support. Lives are vastly improved on a one-to-one basis by mentoring.
 
There are people in our community who need our support. We all have the ability to support them through mentoring. The Circles program here in Sussex County is a perfect example. Families are emerging from poverty and creating sustainable futures due to the power of mentoring. This program has been groundbreaking, bringing about long-term solutions to poverty. We, as a community, should take great pride in this program’s success and work to expand its reach to more families. We need the community’s help to keep it going!
 
January is National Mentoring Month. I invite residents to sign up for United Way’s free mentor training to learn how to become an effective mentor. You can learn more at www.UnitedWayNNJ.org/MentorCenter. You CAN make a difference. United Way, as well as most other nonprofit service providers, depends on volunteers. Now is the time to step forward and volunteer.

 
 
It is also the time to say thank you to all of those who have given of their precious time and energies to serve our community through mentoring.
 
In the words of President Obama: “Our American family is bound together by caring individuals who make it their mission to serve others. During National Mentoring Month, we pay special tribute to the men and women who enrich the lives of our young people and fortify the unbreakable bonds between one generation and the next.”
 
 
Here’s to brighter days and brighter futures.
 
 
Mary Emilius, Director
 
United Way of Northern New Jersey Mentor Center