“Miss JoEllen! You came!” 7-year-old Ashleigh Deakins exclaimed when she saw her Kids Hope mentor.
“Of course I came,” Miss JoEllen answered with a smile. “I come to see you every week.”
Miss JoEllen also made time to attend Ashleigh’s soccer and basketball games. And when she graduated from high school, Miss JoEllen was there, too.
Ashleigh was a struggling second-grader when Miss JoEllen first met her through the Kids Hope program. JoEllen’s church sponsored the program, which partners with a local elementary school. Church members volunteer to mentor an at-risk child for one hour each week during the school year.
“I looked forward to spending time with Miss JoEllen each week,” Ashleigh says. “She helped me academically and she provided consistent love and support.”
Miss JoEllen was Ashleigh’s mentor throughout her elementary school years, but neither knew that their relationship would turn into a lifelong friendship. “We still meet to catch up,” Ashleigh says, “and she still remembers my birthday every year.”
Ashleigh went on to become a first-generation college student, and then God laid it on her heart to start a Kids Hope program at her church. “I’ve seen firsthand what having a mentor can do for a child,” she says. “I wanted to reach out to the community and help other kids have that special friend in their lives, just like I did.”
Ashleigh is the director of the Kids Hope program at The Bridge, a church of 350 people, located in Terre Haute, Indiana. “Being a mentor is so rewarding. It impacts a child’s life in so many ways,” Ashleigh says. “The more churches that get involved, the more children’s lives we can touch.”