Emeritus Friendships Alumni Profile: Judy Heyboer

As a human resource professional, I have long understood the power of mentoring. My career has benefited tremendously from my connection with people wiser and more experienced than I, who were willing and able to share their views and learning, and provide a safe and non-judgmental place for me to share my hopes and concerns. 

So in 2000, when I “retired” from corporate life, and a colleague invited me to take a look at Friends for Youth, it immediately made sense. I realized, as I got to know the organization, that there are so many children who, despite having family who love and worry about them, still don’t have someone to talk to who listens just because they care and want to share. And having someone who chooses to be there is an amazing gift, not just of time, but of confidence and security. 

I served on the organization’s Board for quite awhile before I was ready to mentor. As a single mother of two, trying to make sure my own two kids had all they needed to succeed in life, I was worried that I didn’t have enough time or wisdom for a child not my own. But at some point, as my own kids pulled away to claim their independence, I was ready to listen and support a youth without the comfortable advantages my own children had. Mentoring with Friends for Youth was as much a blessing and learning to me as it was to my mentee. 

My junior friend, Melissa, was 11 when we were matched. She was sweet and shy and full of interesting ideas and questions about friends, foes, and families. We enjoyed walking and cooking and trying arts and crafts, though our efforts often led to more laughter than success. Melissa tentatively embraced my love of books and reading, and rewarded me with Spanish lessons. She practiced walking my dog to demonstrate to her dad that she could indeed care for a pet, and gradually began to talk about goals for growing up. While Melissa’s family moved out of the area, I hear from her occasionally, and her letters tell me the values I hoped to convey are still part of her repertoire, and while she struggles as any teenager does, she tells me she still cherishes memories of singing in the car and playing silly games, and I know she knows that she will always have a friend who chose to care about how she grows up. 

I continue to support and give to Friends for Youth because I KNOW mentoring makes a difference. I know what it has done for me, and I rejoice in the difference it can make to kids in need of someone to listen and care.

First published in the May 2013 Emeritus Friendships Bulletin


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