Staff Blogger: Elizabeth Fantozzi- Marketing and Public Relations Manager
On Aug. 8, individuals from the Ottawa County United Way’s ‘Til Next Time (TNT) program visited Lakeside to engage in the Chautauqua programming while investing quality time in the mentor/mentee relationships that TNT offers.
The TNT Mentoring Program was developed to help create and support one-on-one mentoring relationships between positive adult role models and youth facing challenges in their personal, social and academic lives.
In 2017, the Lakeside Men’s Bible Study Group had the desire to put their faith into action, which led to them forming a partnership with the TNT program.
This summer, approximately 70 students and 50 mentors arrived in Lakeside to spend a day engaging with the community while investing in the positive relationships that are arranged through the TNT program.
The event has grown on all fronts: there were more kids, more volunteers, more activities and more support.
“It’s a positive initiative, and the community volunteers want to be a part of it,” said Randy Donithan, Men’s Bible Study Group member. “Anything we can do to connect communities is a very positive thing.”
Bob Brymer, of the Men’s Bible Study Group, added that this support, both from the community volunteers and the Lakeside administration, has been crucial.
“If Lakeside leadership had shied away from this, it never could have happened,” Brymer said. “The senior staff has really gotten behind this and opened the doors and hearts of Lakeside.”
This year, the kids participated in many activities including: the Lakeside Symphony youth concert, shuffleboard, miniature golf, basketball, volleyball, shopping, pond boat building or an art class at the Rhein Center.
“They got to enjoy Lakeside just like we do,” said Donithan. “They can pick activities that interest them the most and engage with the Chautauqua experience.”
“My favorite part was to see the students have the opportunity to do so many different things in Lakeside and to see how Lakeside can wrap its arms around you when you’re here and make you feel welcome,” said Brymer.
TNT mentee Alex Adams said her favorite part of the day was the delicious food and games.
“I loved the pizza and ice cream! I really liked shuffleboard because it was peaceful, quiet, nice and competitive,” she said.
Her mentor Jan Pugh said it was a great time seeing the kids fully enjoying themselves.
Executive Director of the Ottawa County Family Advocacy Center, Connie Cornett, said the best part is just everyone being together for the day in a peaceful atmosphere.
“The kids have a lot of fun here and it’s a lot different than what they do every other day,” she said.
Everyone involved in TNT Day, including the Lakeside staff, mentors and the 40+ volunteers, said it was nice to see the kids having fun and enjoying Lakeside.
“To look at the kids’ faces and to see the joy was the best part. I’m happy that they got to witness the youth symphony concert,” said Kevin Sibbring Lakeside Chautauqua President/CEO. “This year, the kids really received exposure from all four of the Lakeside pillars: recreation, religion, arts/entertainment and education.”
Just like last year, Lakeside provided each mentor/mentee pair with a set of Daily Chautauqua Passes to return and use another time in the season. The group received feedback last year that the opportunity to come and truly create their own Lakeside day was greatly appreciated.
Looking to the future, the group hopes to continue to grow the program – tweaking and evolving to meet the needs of the TNT group each year.
“I not only want to see TNT Day continue but I hope to see it keep growing and improving as well, anything we can do to help the community,” said Brymer. “We truly enjoy working with the mentors and the students as much as they enjoy being here, so it’s really a two-way street and I would love to see this event grow.”