Local nonprofit highlights need for mentors in Memphis for National Mentoring Month

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — January is National Mentoring Month and Youth Villages, a nonprofit that works with at-risk families, is highlighting the need for mentors in the Memphis area.

Ed Kopka and 16-year-old Bobby enjoy a good pickup basketball game.

A few times out of the month, the two spend quality time together.

“We’ve gone bowling, he likes bowling I can do that,” Kopka said.

“He wants to go rollerblading. I can’t do that. He wants to go to ball games. Yes, we can do that!”

It’s all a part of the Chris Crye Mentoring Program at Youth Villages.

The goal of the program is to provide young people with a positive adult influence.

Kopka has participated as a mentor for 12 years.

“They’re good kids from bad situations,” Kopka said.

“You give them an opportunity to grow. Without mentoring, we don’t know what direction their lives would take.”

Kopka has only mentored Bobby for a little over two months.

FOX13 was not allowed to show Bobby’s face on camera, but Bobby said in such a short amount of time, the mentoring program has been life changing.

“I felt really, really excited because it put a place there or me,” Bobby said.

“It gave me hope because at the time I was dealing with issues and it gave me that spark of joy to I guess get back on the right track.”

Youth Villages provides help for children and young people who face a wide range of emotional, mental and behavioral problems.

Mentor Manager Tangina Sanders said the organization has found giving children a little extra time and attention can go a long way.

“Someone who can show them it doesn’t have to be a family member who cares about them or is interested in their success here,” Sanders said.

“So, it helps young people to learn how to rely on others. How to network, how to find community in all types of people.

As a new member of the program, Bobby said he hopes others will take part.

“I wan them to know that there’s always a person who cares,” Bobby said.

“No matter how much people are a bad influence or don’t really care about you, there’s always someone who will care. Always someone who will be there for you in the end.”

Youth Villages said there is a demand for male volunteers.

Mentors must be at least 21 years of age and pass a background check.