Local organizations seek more volunteers to battle mentor shortage

SPOKANE, Wash. — The non-profit “Big Brothers, Big Sisters Inland Northwest” is now facing an unprecedented challenge: a shortage of mentors.

Hundreds of kids are now waiting to be matched with someone to look up to and learn from. Local organizations are pushing for collective efforts, launching a volunteer campaign called Mentor Up for children.

“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have Brian in my life,” said Kaden Kanzler, Mentee at Big Brothers, Big Sisters Inland Northwest.

Ever since Kanzler was in the 3rd grade. his mentor Brian was a part of his life, from swimming to his graduation.

“Sometimes we go to a golf course and putt for a little bit, and we would play for money,” Kanzler said.

Even in times when he was at the lowest point of life, his mentor was there for him.

“I have been bullied a lot through the years and Brian just made it to where it wasn’t like torture all the time. He helped me know how to deal with it and grow as a human being,” Kanzler said.

When the pandemic hit, it brought a ripple effect in the form of a shortage of mentors.

Compared to pre-pandemic, “Big Brothers, Big Sisters Inland Northwest” are around 300 mentors short.

“Especially at the height of the pandemic, a lot of people just weren’t as willing as they may have been pre-pandemic to commit to developing a new relationship with somebody who’s a stranger,” said Kyle West, CEO of Big Brothers, Big Sisters Inland Northwest.

Many mentors weren’t able to volunteer because schools shut down in-person learning due to COVID.

“Unfortunately, our mentoring program shrinked. Our numbers shrinked dramatically,” said Kelley Hinrichs, Volunteer Services Director, Communities in Schools Spokane County.

The goal of the campaign is to match 500 children with a mentor by the end of next year.

“I think just a few minutes of our time each week sitting with the students doing things that are simple, listening and asking questions and making an interest really does change a child’s life,” Hinrichs said.

You can volunteer to be a mentor here.