“The students came out rather somber, but when they saw us, our signs and gifts, they erupted in big smiles … some with tears,” said Margaret Tidmore, coordinator of the New Horizons Learning Center (NHLC) Mentor Program. Last month, approximately 40 mentees received home-delivered care packages during the COVID-19 shutdown.
“I’d wake up in the night thinking about our students and how they must feel during this time of isolation,” said Tidmore. “I prayed about it, and met with our mentor program committee to think of ways we could reach out to them.” A field trip was canceled due to the shutdown, so they decided to take the field trip to the students.
Brian Baber, NHLC Student Advisory Committee Chairman, and Susan Southerland, both mentor program Business Partners and mentors, met with Tidmore, Tammy Hughley, NHLC Youth Motivator and Laura Dever, NHLC Social Worker. “We discussed ways to let our students know how much we loved and missed them and were here to meet any needs they may have,” said Tidmore.
They decided to deliver care packages of encouragement and hope to the mentees’ homes, with the permission of their parents and NHLC. Since the students enjoyed playing board games with their mentors at school, the committee decided to include favorite games in the care packages. Also enclosed were puzzles, snacks, and silicone bracelets with messages of love, courage, and hope. Each mentee received a personal note from their mentor and a poster filled with words of encouragement. Food packs were brought for those who wanted them.
“We’re thankful to our Business Partners and the community for making this possible,” said Tidmore. “They have always stepped up to the plate to meet the many needs of our students.”
The care packages were delivered over two days in May while adhering to CDC COVID-19 guidelines. Tidmore, Dever, and Southerland wore masks and practiced social distancing while giving the gifts outside the mentees’ homes. “One of the students said, ‘But why can’t I hug Ms. Tidmore?’ said Margaret. “It was so hard, but we kept our distance.”
“These two days were two of the most awesome days in my career as a Social Worker for the past 39 years,” said Laura Dever. “It was truly a gift to me to see these students in their own’ turfs.’ I missed seeing them on a daily basis at school and was thrilled to be able to see them again before summer was upon all of us. The smiles and ‘air hugs’ that we received were the ‘icing on the cake.’”
“The kids were so excited to get a personal note from their mentors,” said Tidmore. “Mentors gave them permission to call or email and keep in touch, with parents’ and the school’s permission.”
“I visited with my student, Tyler, shortly before spring break,” said Craig Carter, mentor, Business Partner, and Lead Pastor at Lynn Haven United Methodist Church. “Little did I know that would be the last time I would see him this school year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I was very glad to receive a recent email from him that came in response to a note I sent him through the Care Package visits. I look forward to resuming our mentoring relationship when schools reopen in the fall.”
Laughter and tears filled the students’ reactions. “I don’t want to work from home. I want to go back to school!” “I love you! I miss you. I want to go back to school!”
“The day was really special for the kids,” said Susan Southerland, “because of the way the school year ended, and for them to see how they were loved and cared for and thought of. It was a great honor for me to be there. The neatest thing was for me to see the kids’ reactions when they saw Ms. Tidmore. She has poured herself into those kids and they really love her!”
To learn about becoming a mentor or Business Partner for the New Horizons Learning Center Mentor Program, visit BecomeAMentor.org.
Link to News Herald article.