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Moldowski column: A letter worth celebrating, confetti or not

A letter from the IRS is not something people look forward to. Strangely enough, it's been what I've excitedly checked the mail for every day for months.

I walk into the Damiano Center, go to the mailbox for Mentor Superior/Mentor Duluth, and open it in anticipation. Where is the plain white envelope? Will confetti jump out when it was opened? Do I need to purchase confetti poppers? I should, just as a precaution.

Personally, I believe all IRS letters announcing 501(c)3 status should come with confetti, because those letters signify a great accomplishment and a new chapter moving forward.

To provide context, Mentor Superior/Mentor Duluth has gone through a significant transitional shift over the past two years. Since 2012, Mentor Superior operated as a program with the Mentor Duluth Collaborative, successfully serving thousands of children and families in the Twin Ports.

In 2017, the Collaborative directors sat down together to discuss how we can sustainably support community-based mentoring in the Twin Ports for the long term. After months of exploration, it was decided that Mentor Superior/Mentor Duluth will apply for 501(c)3 nonprofit status to continue providing high-quality mentoring services in the Twin Ports.

Thus began my googling of "how to start a nonprofit," and came to fruition on March 29 when the IRS letter arrived confirming our status and closed the transitional chapter of the program.

No confetti was included in the letter, but there was a raucous office dance party of program advocates.

Mentor Superior and Mentor Duluth are a 501(c)3 nonprofit; we provide high quality community-based mentoring opportunities to the Twin Ports and serve 250 volunteers and over 500 youth on a yearly basis. Our program partners with 25 unique businesses to bring high-quality mentoring opportunities to matches through our activities pass and regularly collaborates with youth-serving agencies and area clubs for memorable activities for youth and families. Together, the program supports over 28,000 hours of mentoring each year.

Growing up, I was fortunate to be the youngest of five siblings all very close in age. My sister Sheila was the oldest and leader of the group, then my three brothers and me.

Sheila took her role very seriously and always let me know that she was a constant support, a protector and a friend. Her natural tendency to mentor makes sense for me and my brothers, so it wasn't a surprise that she decided to become a mentor in Mentor Duluth when she was in college in the early 2000s.

I was first introduced to Whitney, her mentee, when I was 13 years old. Sheila invited me to come stay with her at her apartment, and she, Whitney, and I would have "sister" weekends together. We would eat food, hang out, watch movies and talk like sisters do. When I met Whitney, I knew that there was a special bond between her and Sheila. This was a match, made possible by Mentor Duluth, where I was fortunate enough to receive a third sister.

Whitney and Sheila did everything together: They went for walks, baked and cooked, and went to the beach. When Sheila got married, Whitney and I were both in the wedding party, and I got to witness them have a special dance after the father-daughter dance to celebrate their bond.

Sheila mentored both Whitney and me through our teenage years and into early adulthood, and continues to be our mentor today. When the opportunity to work with Mentor Superior arose I immediately applied, knowing that Mentor Duluth and Mentor Superior has forever changed my life.

With an exciting new chapter ahead for the organization, and honoring 23 years of a highly successful program being built, we are hosting a community-wide celebration.

The 1st Annual Mentor Superior/Mentor Duluth Alumni Brunch will be on Saturday, May 18, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center Harborside Ballroom. We encourage alumni, both mentors and mentees, to attend, and we also want to invite organizations, businesses, families and residents passionate about mentoring to join.

Everyone will receive free brunch food, and everyone will receive a free day pass to the Great Lakes Aquarium thanks to the generosity and support of the Aquarium.

To RSVP, please visit our website at mentorduluth.org.

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