The MENTOR Network

In the News

The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation Announces Q4 FY16 Community Champions

The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation is pleased to announce its Community Champions for the fourth quarter of FY16. These employees were nominated by their colleagues and are being recognized for their work with local non-profit organizations, where they donate their time and energy to improve quality of life for their neighbors. The Champions’ chosen nonprofits will receive a $500 grant from The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation.

Lynda Knecht

Certified Medical Assistant, REM Iowa, Council Bluffs

LyndaFirst Baptist Church is a staple in the community of Carter Lake, Iowa where Lynda Knecht has been volunteering for over 35 years. Lynda assists with whatever activity she can including teaching Sunday School, baking cookies to bring to police officers and workers at City Hall, serving as a church Trustee, and lending her nursing skills to the children’s camp during the summers.

“Lynda is a hard worker and very caring, she enjoys assisting others and helping when and where she can,” said Amanda Adkins, Program Coordinator at REM Iowa. “She is always doing something for her church without asking anything in return.”

Lynda also manages the church’s emergency assistance closet which is available for local families who fall on hard times. Clothing items are donated from individuals and families in the area and Lynda sorts through each item to make sure it meets their quality standard before giving to those in need. Likewise, if she hears of someone in need of food or other household items, she will spread the word and make sure they get the essentials. During the holidays, Lynda distributes food baskets, toys and clothing in the community to make the season a little brighter.

“I enjoy giving back to the community,” says Lynda. “Our community depends on the church and we do all we can to help. If a family calls and says they need something, then I want to be there.”

Jennifer Kulka

Program Coordinator, REM Hennepin

jen1aJennifer Kulka has been volunteering with Our Dance Place in Minnesota for the past year. The organization’s vision is to offer a safe enjoyable social environment for individuals with disabilities. The club partners with local VFW Halls and Banquets of Minnesota to have a space to provide individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to get together with friends in a safe hassle free social environment, dancing, dining, talking and having fun with their friends.

Jennifer became invested in the mission of Our Dance Place when she was seeking a social experience for her cousin and has been volunteering weekly ever since. At the dances she welcomes and checks attendees in at the door, and socializes and dances to ensure everyone has fun. She also helps organize special events such as the monthly birthday celebration and the spring formal where they crown a king and queen, an experience many who come to Our Dance Place did not have in high school.

“I have seen photos and heard her tales of volunteering, dancing the night away, and helping everyone who is at the dances enjoy every moment,” said Cailan Sockness, HR Coordinator at REM Hennepin. “Jennifer is truly an inspiration and has and will continue to positively shape the community around her.”

Our Dance Place is run solely by volunteers who believe in spreading the mission of offering a place where everyone belongs. Jennifer’s commitment to the organization has helped Our Dance Place grow to four weekly dances, and counting, that welcomes nearly 300 people in total.

“My motivation for volunteering there is knowing how much individuals look forward to the dance each week, watching them build friendships, and see their face light up when they walk through the door,” said Jennifer. “After a night at Our Dance Place my jaw hurts from smiling and laughing and that is a wonderful feeling.”

To learn more about Our Dance Place, please visit www.ourdanceplace.org.

About The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation

The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation is committed to transforming the delivery of human services through the generation of new ideas and best practices. We seek to advance an agenda based on quality, accountability and respect for the individual. The focus of our giving is on organizations that take a fresh look—through research, innovative thinking, direct care and programming—at how people with disabilities and youth and families facing emotional, behavioral and other challenges are cared for in our society. The Foundation also works to expand opportunity for the people we serve through employment and educational support.