A Positive Impact

PROFESSIONALS MENTOR YOUNG ADULTS IN FOSTER CARE As a part of their Leadership Lynchburg class, Foster Fuels Vice President of Marketing Chelsea Harrison and her


As a part of their Leadership Lynchburg class, Foster Fuels Vice President of Marketing Chelsea Harrison and her team members were assigned a very wide-ranging topic for their group project: youth.

“It was broad,” Harrison said. “But we wanted to design something that had a sustainable impact on
the community.”

The group decided to partner with Impact Living Services to help the organization lead its monthly training sessions for young adults enrolled in the organization’s independent living program. This program helps foster children ages 17 to 21 achieve educational, vocational, and financial goals. Together, the nonprofit and Harrison’s Leadership Lynchburg group created Impact Circles, a mentorship program that partners people in the community with young adults in Impact’s programs.

Young adults who enrolled in the Impact Living Services’ independent living program are required to attend monthly trainings, but Harrison and her group wanted to bring in Lynchburg professionals and experts to focus on specific topics such as real estate, fire and internet safety, and budgeting to help these individuals grow their skills. In some cases, it can be a first-time introduction to certain subjects.

“We had professionals commit to one hour a year,” Harrison explained. “It was awesome to connect with multiple community leaders who wanted to be involved. We have sessions scheduled through [2022].”

Impact Living Services’ Mission Advancement Officer Maria Rolf said seeing the community reach out to partner with them was “a blessing.”

“We had been working as an organization to start a program like this,” Rolf said. “But the fact that they came to us was an unexpected gift.”

According to Rolf, many of the young adults in their program have never had anyone come alongside them and introduce them to certain life skills.

“It’s providing new opportunities that they’ve never had before,” she said. “We had someone come and speak from Centra’s marketing department and for some of our kids who are creative, they realized that they don’t have to be a starving artist. They can apply those skills to something like marketing.”

Rolf and Harrison said the response from those in the program has been positive. The young adults are also sharing stories of how they are applying in their own lives what they have learned.

“Beacon Credit Union had a really nice training,” said 18-year-old Shanna Coleman. “They taught us what credit is, how to use it, and what the different types of bank accounts are.”

As a current student at Central Virginia Community College, Coleman said her first priority is college, but Impact’s training classes have helped take the pressure off.

“Adulting can be overwhelming,” she said. “It’s touching to know that there are people who care about you and care about your progression.”

Coleman is also part of Impact Circles. Mentors meet a few times a month with their mentees to talk about life, school, or any other issues they’d like to address.

“I’ve been meeting with my mentor for a few weeks now and there’s a lot we have in common,” Coleman said. “I’m not used to having a mentor to this extent. It’s a lot more personal and hands-on.”

Harrison said hearing testimonies like this only strengthens their mission as a group.

“Many of these kids are in relational poverty,” Harrison said. “I know if I was going through a hard time, I know I have friends or family members who can help me. But they don’t have that. They need someone to come around them and have a positive impact.”

Rolf said that Coleman’s story shows that anyone can overcome their circumstances and succeed with the right community.

It’s also proof that volunteers from the community truly can change lives.

“We’re looking for people who want to come around these [young adults] to help them grow relationally,” she said. “While they have case workers who are paid to be their support, we want people who volunteer their time and stick with them beyond what’s required.”

Email Maria Rolf at maria.rolf@impactlivingservices.org.

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