Editor's note: Moffat County Partners asked that the Daily Press not use the last names of their participating youths for confidentiality reasons.
Four years ago, Diane Cookston read about a program aimed at giving youths in difficult situations adult mentors in their communities.
She joined Moffat County Partners and has been matched with 14-year-old Mackenzie ever since.
"I've got another friend," Cookston said. "She's great."
January is National Mentoring Month and Tuesday marks Thank Your Mentor Day. Partners organizers are asking community members to think about those who made a difference in their lives and tell them how much they're appreciated.
"You might know what they've done for you, but they might not," Executive Director Tara Jenrich said.
Cookston and Mackenzie are one of 10 successful matches the organization has arranged. They enjoy making crafts and just spending time together.
Mackenzie said she has gained a lot from the program and learned from Cookston to be more flexible around other people, to have more patience: character skills pretty much."
Cookston dedicates about three hours a week to the one-on-one program and also attends the monthly group recreational gatherings. The organization holds occasional life skills activities, too.
Volunteers can help at any of these levels depending on how much time they have to offer.
"It depends on if you just want to dip your toe in or go for it," case manager Melia Bisbee said.
Because of the close interaction with children, many of these positions require intense screening processes, including background checks, interviews and letters of recommendation.
"It's all worth it, though," Cookston said.
Youths are selected on a number of risk factors, varying from low self-esteem to trouble with the law.
Jenrich said she understands the difficulties of raising children, particularly in single-parent homes. She raised four children alone.
Forty-one youths ages 8 to 17 are on the waiting list for senior mentors.
"I always wish there were more people to be a part of it," Cookston said.
"Whenever I come to the (group activities) and there's all the kids on the waiting list, it breaks my heart."
To become involved in Partners, visit the group's office, 439 Breeze St., or call 826-4261.
Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.