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MANSFIELD – North End Community Improvement Collaborative, Inc. (NECIC) announced a new initiative Friday in partnership with Richland County Children’s Services.

The Open Table will support youth aging out of foster care by building a network of ongoing support and mentorship around the needs of each participant. 

This initiative was brought to NECIC by community organizer Kay Smith in June 2019. Following her passing, community organizer, Nyasha Oden continues her work to help our community’s youth with Open Tables.

“Sometimes, youth aging out of foster care may not have had a family support system,” said NECIC Executive Director Deanna West-Torrence. “As they are transitioning into adulthood, home and life skills become imperative. Their table of mentors become that person’s network of support.”

According to TheOpenTable.org, “Each Table is composed of a group of volunteers that make a year-long commitment to act, through relationship, as a team of life specialists, encouragers, and advocates. Over the course of a year, the Table works together to set goals, foster accountability, and implement a plan to create change.”

West-Torrence explained that this is a nationwide, evidence-based model.

“The outcomes are incredible,” she said, “with 9 out of 10 participants staying in relationships with their table members after completion of their year in the program.” 

She added that one-to-one mentoring, especially with an individual with high needs, can be very heavy on one person, but this model allows a shared responsibility, creating a new family-type unit for the individual. Additionally, this model encourages community members to share their assets, make a connection, and be a part of something transformational for the young person.

NECIC will host a series Open Tables Recruitment sessions in our office, 134 N. Main St in Mansfield, OH 44902. The courses will be held Feb. 20 from 5 to 6:30 p.m., Feb. 21 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (you are more than welcome to bring a lunch), and Feb. 21, 2020 from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

If you or anyone you know has a passion for mentoring youth NECIC encourages the public to join the discussion for these courses. Those who are interested can contact Nyasha Oden at 419-522-1611 ext 112. 

The initiative is supported by a grant from the SN and Ada Ford Fund.

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