May 01, 2018 12:00AM ● Published by Brian Saucedo
If there’s one thing Donna Christian is passionate about, it’s working with children. So when she happened to be at a comedy show one evening and came across a volunteer opportunity with Talbot Mentors, she couldn’t resist.
“I used to volunteer for the PTA at my daughter’s elementary school for about four or five years,”
Christian explains. “I took a break from that, and thought, ‘What else can I volunteer for that I’ll enjoy?’ I love children.”
Christian hails from Northern Virginia and moved to Easton 16 years ago, where she now lives
with her husband and 16-year-old daughter. She has been volunteering with Talbot Mentors since November 2016, specifically working with Heaven, an eight-year-old girl.
Talbot Mentors was founded in 1997. According to Christian, its mission is to pair adults with children—kindergarten to 12th grade—who need some extra attention and support as they mature. The goal is do fun, simple activities that the mentees would enjoy, such as coloring together or perhaps visiting an aquarium. While Talbot Mentors requires their volunteers to spend at least one to two hours per week with their mentees, Christian spends three to four days with Heaven per week, with each visit being up to five hours. Occasionally, Christian will also include Heaven’s two younger sisters.
“I take them out about once a week just because I think it’s important for them to learn to get along well and have really good experiences that they can share when they go back home,” Christian explains. “It’s a lot of work when I have the three girls. They have a lot of energy,” she says with a laugh.
Heaven is very energetic and enjoys doing a multitude of activities. Christian explains that when they get together, she’ll usually ask Heaven what she wants to do and she can be “the boss”—in a nice way, of course. She says Heaven really enjoys arts and crafts, gymnastics, swimming, eating at Chick-Fil-A, and Girl Scouts, which she does with one of her sisters. Christian also enrolled her in a lacrosse program to help her build relationships with other girls her age.
“Seeing her grow up and mature, and just be happy,” Christian says, when asked about what her favorite thing is about working with Heaven. “She wasn’t very happy when I first met her. She was very shy and reserved. She’s just blossomed a lot. She has more self-esteem now. It’s just really nice seeing her come alive more. I think it’s been a huge impact on her life.”
Each mentor is obligated to make a one-year commitment when they volunteer. Christian says she hopes to stay involved with Heaven for as long as she can and as long as
Heaven wants her to.
“I get a lot of joy from seeing them happy and having fun. That’s the biggest thing about being a
Talbot Mentor—seeing them have a great time.”
For more information, visit talbotmentors.org