‘Friends of the Children’ Eyes Fairbanks for Newest Branch

A national child mentoring program is eyeing Fairbanks for its newest branch.  Duncan Campbell, founder of the Philadelphia-based nonprofit “Friends of the Children”, is in Fairbanks meeting with community members to gauge local support for the program for at-risk kids. Cambell, who started Friends of the Children in 1993, says it makes a difference in the lives of kids facing tough odds.

Cambell says the program uses paid mentors to work with kids.  The group’s model is the subject of a national grant-funded study, and Cambell third-party verified statistics show it works.

Cambell says each child enrolled in the program spends four hours a week with their mentor, a mix of academics, sports and other activities. Friends of the Children has come to Fairbanks at the prompting of community members, including State Senator Joe Paskvan, who got $2 million put into the state budget to start-up money for Fairbanks. Another program advocate, Linda Setterberg, executive director a faith-based nonprofit that runs Joel’s Place Skate Park and Youth Center in Fairbanks, says Friends of the Children will fill an important niche.

Setterberg says the group has good track record of maintaining a single mentor through the time period a child is involved. Cambell says his group would likely start out by mentoring between 60 to 100 Fairbanks youth, but he estimates there are over a thousand kids that could benefit.  Friends of the Children largely relies on community donations, and Campbell says local response will determine the fate of a Fairbanks chapter.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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