Gary Avery, 58, and Taylor Benton, 15, are a match made for life. They’ve been together for the past eight years through the Bev’s Kids mentoring program at People Attempting to Help.
When they began the partnership, Taylor was in second grade. He’s now a freshman at East Texas Christian Academy.
“To me, it’s more of a friendship — a different type of relationship,” Avery said. “It’s a relationship I think will last way into the future. I can’t imagine if you spend at least an hour an afternoon each week with a person why you would give it up.”
Avery, a retiree who has no biological children of his own, is the program’s longest serving mentor. He had volunteered at PATH doing casework and working in the food pantry. Then he saw another way to help.
“It was a way to give back,” he said. “When I looked at the options to give back, it seemed like the one that gave the opportunity to make a real difference.”
Neither Avery, nor Taylor, knew what to expect when they first met. Today, they’re thankful their paths have met, teaching each other along the way.
Mentors like Avery spend an afternoon or more each week with their mentees, providing help with homework and exposing them to new and exciting things. Before the Christmas break during midterm finals, they spent each day together. Avery’s wife, Alice, also has been instrumental in helping with homework.
Taylor’s grades improved. He’s learned how to hunt and how to fix things. But he also treasures their friendship most.
“He’s fun,” Taylor said. “He’s caring. He’s a good listener when I’m going through school problems. He likes to joke around. We have a good time.”
Taylor said Avery has helped him to organize and study better and has challenged him to do his best. He’s been a part of the Choir School of East Texas for the last three years.
They’ve also talked about future career plans. Right now, Taylor has his sights set on the sports medicine field.
Avery warns those who are interested in guiding a young life that mentoring is a great responsibility not to be taken lightly.
“From a mentoring point of view, if people are considering it, they really need to think about it,” he said. “It does take quite a commitment, time-wise. The last thing these kids need is one more adult that lets them down.”
But he said the benefits to all involved are countless.
“They can expect to learn as much from the young person as the young person learns from them,” he said. “They’ll get a great sense of satisfaction from watching a young person develop.”