Family of Friends names new program manager
When a Gresham-based nonprofit organization's newest employee was at her lowest point, and felt angry, alone and unloved, it was a mentor who made the difference.
Desiree Gutierrez was a sophomore in high school and having a meltdown. She had grown up in a nontraditional household. Her parents weren't often around, she was in-and-out of the Foster Care system, a teen parent and at times, homeless. That afternoon Gutierrez reached her breaking point — refusing to listen to anyone and running around the school.
"My mentor brought me into her office, put her hands on my shoulders, and said it was OK for me to have these feelings," Gutierrez said. "She showed that someone loved me."
Having a mentor made all the difference in her life, and now Gutierrez is joining a local program dedicated to connecting vulnerable children with volunteer mentors. She will serve as the program manager for Family of Friends Mentoring.
For the nonprofit organization, bringing on Gutierrez was a no-brainer because of her own experiences with a mentor and working with kids.
"Being a mother of 4 and having grown up in a nontraditional family, as well as being a Latina who speaks Spanish, were all big pluses for us as we look for staff who represent and can relate to our kids and families," said Executive Director Michelle Kosta. "Her ability to marshal people and resources to benefit youth, and her general laid-back, enthusiastic, compassionate personality are all things that really made her stand out for us."
Gutierrez joins Family of Friends after working seven years with Metropolitan Family Service SUN program at Oliver Elementary School. She is currently transitioning into a fulltime role, as she wanted to spend a few more months supporting parents at the school in the wake of the pandemic and abrupt end to the school year.
"Everything that Family of Friends does for the youth and community intrigued me," she said.
Her first few weeks have been spent learning more about the program and meeting the matches. Family of Friends has been working to support their families through the COVID-19 shutdown, connecting them with food boxes and other resources.
This month will be the first in-person gathering for Family of Friends since the government-mandated shutdown. The idea came from Gutierrez, the first in what will be many activities she plans to create utilizing community resources and assets. Mentors and their matches will spend an afternoon in Red Sunset Park later this month making tie dye shirts.
Other activities on the horizon include a painting in the park event with a local muralist and a group picnic.
"I want to add my creativity to these activities," Gutierrez said. "Our families deserve these opportunities."
Family of Friends
The nonprofit program uses a community of volunteer mentors to support vulnerable children in East Multnomah County.
The mentors, who can be families, couples or individuals, provide another positive force in the child's life. They help guide positive behavior while supporting parents who are trying to make ends meet. The kids are usually in elementary school when matched, and can stay with their mentor all the way through high school.
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