Looking for a way to make a real difference in one child’s life?

If you have 8-10 hours a month to spare, you can.

Mentors help children gain self-confidence and direction, and resist negative peer pressure. They give of their time and take these young people to places like ball games, museums, parks and more. Many of these young people may never have ventured outside of their own neighborhood prior to their involvement with Friends First. By having a mentor, they benefit just by experiencing new things, seeing new parts of the city, and having a friend to lend an ear and lead by example.

Friends First screens and trains adult volunteers who wish to mentor a child. We provide ongoing support, supervision and encouragement to matches. Through professional staff services, we help to foster significant and life-changing friendships.

To be a mentor to a child, you need to be 21 or older, patient, and a good listener.

What is mentoring at Mercy Home?

Some children are in need of a caring friend to help, but may not be dealing with the same circumstances that rise to the level of seriousness that requires placement in a residential setting like Mercy Home for Boys & Girls. Mercy Home responds to their need for additional support through the Friends First Mentoring program serving youth throughout Cook Count who live at home with their own families. Mentees may come from economically-struggling single-parent households or from neighborhoods with limited recreational and learning opportunities.

Mentors support their mentee in gaining self-confidence, finding direction, and resisting negative peer pressure. They give of their time and take these young people to places like ball games, museums, parks and more. They expand young people’s horizons through shared activities. Many of these young people may never have had ventured outside of their own neighborhood prior to their involvement with Friends First. They benefit just by experiencing new things, seeing new parts of the city, and having a friend to lend an ear and lead by example.

At Mercy Home, we have two mentoring programs, our Community-Based and our Site-Based Mentoring Programs. View a comparison to see which is best for you.

I know a child who might benefit from having a mentor. How can I make a referral?

If you know of a child who you think could benefit from mentoring, please contact a Friends First staff member to make a referral.  You may reach our Friends First Matching Coordinator by calling 312-738-6368.

How many young people are on the waiting list?

We currently have about 30 young people on our waitlist, with the majority being boys.

Since we only make same gender matches, one of the challenges that the Friends First mentoring program faces is that most of those who volunteer to become mentors are women.  Mercy Home needs more men to step up and guide a child.

How are mentors selected?

All mentors must attend an information session and go through a thorough screening process. Mentors must complete an in person interview and a fingerprint and online background check, get a light physical, as well as attend a mentor orientation and the Protecting God’s Children training on preventing child sexual abuse.  It typically takes about 8-10 weeks to be matched with a young person in the Friends First program.

Do I need a car to be a mentor?

No, If you do not have a car, we will match you with a child who lives near public transportation.

The ease by which we match you will depend on your openness to travel to different areas of the city and how far you are willing to travel.  Owning a car can reduce the travel time and open up more matching possibilities.

What is the time commitment?

Matches in our Community-based program meet for one Year (8 hours per month) over at least 2 outings.  The match goes a full 12-month cycle. Weekend availability is preferred.

Matches in our site-based program meet over the course of the school-calendar (9 months).

Site-based mentors agree to spend a minimum of 5 hours for each meeting and follow a set calendar that is typically every other weekend with their mentee. This is done on Saturdays only.

How will I know I’m making a difference?

We would all love to see the immediate impact of our actions in the lives of children, but change can take time and the full impact we make might show up years later. However, if you have an eye for small moments of hope and change, then you’ll know you are making a difference.

What if my mentee and I have a situation that I don’t know how to handle?

To ensure successful, impactful matches, Friends First staff offers support above and beyond what is provided in typical mentoring programs, including access to a licensed clinical social worker 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If a non-life-threatening emergency occurs, matches are encouraged to contact their Match Support Representative (MSR.)  You will be provided with a phone number for your MSR when you are matched.

If your MSR is unavailable, emergency numbers are as follows:

  • During regular working hours, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday, the program office can be contacted first.  Call Mary Quinn, Friends First–Manager at 312-738-6365.
  • On weekends and evening hours, call Mary Quinn, Friends First–Manager at 872-222-9544.

What types of activities do Friends First matches enjoy?

Oftentimes, our matches can be found playing sports in the park, visiting a local library or book store, participating in cultural activities or events, enjoying the zoo or the 606 trail. We encourage matches to choose activities that foster communication and are free or low-cost. We offer group activities and provide a book called 102 Things to Do With Two to all new matches. Mentors also receive our monthly update of activity ideas.

Who will I be matched with?

Our kids range in age from 9 to 17, but are most commonly between 11 and 15 years old. They come from homes in which the parent or guardian cannot always find enough time to give the one-on-one attention that kids crave. The youth may have low self-esteem and poor social skills. Often, these young people simply want to broaden their horizons and have new experiences. All of the kids in our program voluntarily participate and are excited about having a mentor in their life.

How are kids referred to Friends First?

Many of the youth in our program are referred by schools and social service agencies. We also frequently receive referrals from parents who recognize that their child will benefit from additional positive influences.

Who are the mentors? Do I need any special skills to be a mentor?

Friends First mentors are adult volunteers drawn from throughout the Chicago area who work in a variety of professions. Mentors come from all adult age groups and all walks of life, but are united by their desire to make a difference in the lives of young people.

Mentoring isn’t about having a special talent—it’s about being yourself. If you are at least 21 years old, are patient, a good listener and can be a positive role model, you already have what it takes to be a good mentor.

Curious about mentoring?

There are boys and girls waiting to be matched with a suitable mentor right now! You could be the person who makes the difference in a young person’s life.

Learn about mentoring

Who We Serve

Friends First serves youth between the ages of 9 and 17 in many areas of Chicago and some nearby suburbs.

African Americans and Latinos represent over two-thirds of the children we serve. Our children are predominantly from single-parent and low-income homes. The majority of the youth on our wait list are boys.

How Does Mentoring Work?

To ensure successful, impactful matches, Friends First staff offers support above and beyond what is provided in typical mentoring programs. This includes providing access to a licensed clinical social worker, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our staff is on a first-name basis with every mentor and child and considers all of our families and volunteers to be part of the Mercy Home community.

Consistency is critical to positive mentoring. More than 60% of our current matches have continued to mentor beyond their initial one year commitment.

Interested in becoming a Friends First mentor? Join us at an upcoming information session to learn more!

Saturday, December 3rd
10 - 11 a.m.

Info Session

1140 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60607

Saturday, January 7th
10 - 11 a.m.

Info Session

1140 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60607