The largest employer in Bartow County also has the largest heart in the county.
Shaw Industries is encouraging all of its employees to participate in the Cartersville School District’s Mentor Canes program, where individuals in the community are asked to commit one hour a week during the school year to mentoring an at-risk child.
Plant X kicked off the mentoring trend for Shaw employees last school year, and Plants 94 and 13 joined in Friday by holding a training session at Plant 94 for workers who were interested in improving the life of a child.
At the 30-minute meeting, 18 new mentors signed up, bringing the number of Shaw employees mentoring in the four schools to 35, and several others said they would send in their applications, according to school social worker Maria Hoffman.
“Shaw Plant 94 has a huge heart for our community and children,” she said. “It is beyond amazing. Shaw’s staff make up 40 percent of the Cartersville City School System’s mentoring program.”
Frances Phillips, hospitality marketing manager for Shaw Contract, said company officials were “thrilled” by the interest employees have shown in the mentoring program, “but honestly, I wouldn’t expect anything less from my Shaw friends and family.”
“At Shaw, our common vision is to create a better future — for our people, our customers, our company and our communities,” she said. “As the largest employer in Bartow County, our Shaw family has the opportunity to make a great positive impact on our community. We’re grateful to work for a company that enables its associates to share our greatest wealth, which is our time. And what better way to share our time than by volunteering to help children in our local school system.”
Statistics show students who have a mentor are “more likely to make more positive lifestyle choices, have better attitudes about school and experience increased high school graduation rates,” Phillips said.
“We all strive to make a positive impact in our communities, and what better way to do this than by spending one-on-one time with a child who needs a role model?” she said. “So oftentimes, I think we get caught up in the magnitude of issues surrounding us, and we think that small things may not make a big impact. But if we can better the life of one person, just think of the continuous ripple this may cause in the betterment of Cartersville and Bartow County.”
Hoffman said Shaw employees got involved with Mentor Canes last year after Plant X Manager Patrick Davis “saw information about the program on Facebook and reached out to the school system.”
“He invited us to speak with staff, and they were very receptive about becoming involved in the lives of these young people,” she said. “Many of our mentors from Shaw are going into their second year with their mentee. The students have been so excited to see their mentors again this year.”
After seeing the post that said the school system needed almost 100 mentors, Davis said becoming involved in the program “seemed like a great way to fulfill our vision of creating a better future for our community.”
“If I was going to ask others to step up to this challenge, then I knew I needed to be a mentor myself, and with these kids being the future of our community, it is important for them to have positive, steady, adult role models in their life,” he said.
Phillips added about 15 volunteers signed up last year, and the opportunity was extended to other employees because “we knew a great volunteer opportunity exists between Shaw Plants 13 and 94.”
Hoffman said Phillips invited her to present an overview of the mentoring program at a training session at Plant 94, where Davis and Plant 94 Project Administrator Adrianne Kennedy shared their experiences as mentors.
“We talked about how to break the ice with our mentees, what to expect, the do’s and don’ts of being a mentor and heard some experiences from people who have been mentors in the past,” Davis said.
A fourth-year mentor, Kennedy is meeting weekly with a boy in kindergarten and a girl in first grade at the primary school.
“I wanted to be a mentor to be a support system to a child that may not have that outside of those school walls,” she said. “I want to invest in their future. I am a true advocate for children, and it is my desire to make a difference in the life of any child — any way that I can.”
The experience has been rewarding and memorable for the Euharlee resident.
“I love seeing the emotional, academic and/or social progress that has been made during the mentoring period,” she said.
Davis, who began mentoring in January, meets every week with a boy who just started the fifth grade at the elementary school.
“[The most enjoyable part for me is] seeing the smile on my mentee’s face every Monday when I show up to meet with him,” the Cartersville resident said.
Hoffman said the mentor coordinators from each school will be in touch with the new mentors this week to “get them started with their mentee.”
“We truly value and appreciate everyone that commits to being a mentor,” she said. “Mentoring changes the lives of these children and the future of our community. Research shows that long-term mentoring improves school attendance, grades and graduation rates. By increasing their school success equals increased future life success.”
But the school system still needs more mentors this year, Hoffman said.
“We ask that you commit to one child for up to one hour per week for one school year,” she said. “We can work around your availability.”
Davis said there’s a waiting list of students who have “specifically requested to have a mentor in their life, and that is something that every child deserves.”
“There are enough people in this city that every child that wants to have a mentor should be able to,” he said.
“The students will bless your lives as much as you bless theirs,” Kennedy added.
Hoffman said the school system will have two more 30-minute training sessions open to anyone who would like information on mentoring Saturday, Sept. 30, at 10 a.m. and Tuesday, Oct. 3, at 6 p.m. at the central office at 15 Nelson St.
If interested, call Hoffman at 770-387-4723.