The Ringing of the Bell
By Paul Cataldo, Executive Director
Georgia MENTOR, Children and Family Services
Recently, I visited Georgia MENTOR‘s office in Albany, Georgia to celebrate with staff over the growth the program has seen in the past few years. In this area of the state, we have been able to provide more children with safe, loving homes, and this was cause for celebration. It was also an opportunity to reflect on our mission, which hangs on the belief that everyone deserves the same opportunities to succeed and shape the course of their own lives.
With these thoughts in mind, it was fitting that I should be visiting Albany, which played a crucial role in the Civil Rights era, as it was the site of sit-ins, bus protests and voter registration drives. On December 15, 1961, the bell of the Old Mount Zion Baptist Church in Albany rang loudly ahead of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic speech there.
Our mission is rooted in the same tenets of social justice as the Civil Rights Movement. We believe people of all backgrounds and abilities deserve to live lives of promise and opportunity. We believe every child deserves a safe, loving home and to pursue their own unique vision for their lives. Because of the Albany team’s commitment to serving others, we have expanded our reach in the region, helping more children find loving homes where they can thrive.
During my visit to the Albany program, I presented the team with a bell to ring. The ringing of the bell has historical significance here at Georgia MENTOR, too. In 1980, Byron Hensley, founder of The MENTOR Network, began the tradition of ringing the bell whenever a child or an adult with disabilities was matched with a loving caregiver. Program Director LaToya Bostic rang the bell vigorously! The bell was a reminder that we have helped many children heal and set a hopeful course for their lives, but it was also a call to action. For every child that finds a loving home, there is another still in need.
On the same day that Latoya rang the bell, the Albany team and I visited the Albany Civil Rights Institute, which stands right next to the Old Mount Zion Baptist Church. It was impossible to visit this historic location and not be moved by the progress that has been made to ensure equal rights and opportunities for people of all backgrounds. It was also impossible not to think of the progress that is still needed. Our work continues, but for the children of southwest Georgia, the caring staff of the Albany program have already made a difference. We continue working to ensure that each child we serve lives that life of promise and opportunity, regardless of the challenges that have brought them to us.
Ringing the Bell