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Making a difference one child at a time

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Trileene Macho is convinced her teenage son’s life is on a better course because of his Kinship Partner.

“For my son, it’s been amazing,” Macho said.

Kinship Partners matches volunteer adult mentors with children between the ages of 5 and 14. The matches are made based on common interests and Kinship Partners assists by providing monthly activities for its mentors and their youthful partners. For Jim Johnson and Damian Macho, who live in the Brainerd area, the match brought together a retiree and a teenager who share a love of fishing and camping. Macho said her son has benefitted from the perspective Johnson provides on life and from the welcome influence of a man in his life he can count on to be there.

“He’s just an all around terrific guy and just an excellent match for my son,” Macho said. “Kinship is simply amazing. I don’t think my son could have dreamt up a better match.

“There are no words to express how much I appreciate Jim.”

Damian is Johnson’s third Kinship Partner. He was also a Kinship Partner for Travis Carlson, a 2006 Brainerd High School graduate and Eagle Scout, who is now working as a police officer in Williston, N.D. Johnson, the father of three sons, said after his own children were grown, he felt he still had the time, energy and interest to be involved so he went to Kinship Partners.

“It’s a really good return on the investment of your time,” Johnson said.

Johnson has heard all the arguments against becoming a mentor. First, there’s the time commitment and then the worry they won’t be able to make a connection.

“You can always find something to talk about,” Johnson said, adding he’s taken his Kinship Partners out for activities he would have spent time on anyway, such as camping, fishing or out to eat; helped them learn to drive; or even taken in a play at the Guthrie Theater. Johnson said he knows the boys he mentors have struggles in their lives but he said they look forward to getting together for their outings. He advises those interested in mentoring, or those who have been thinking about it but are still sitting on the fence, to talk to someone who has been a mentor. It’s what he did when he started. The answers to their concerns or questions is just a phone call away, he said. Kinship Partners provides insurance coverage, helps mentors through the process and there are discounts at certain restaurants and retail outlets, such as cross-country ski rentals for Kinship Partners.

Johnson, now in his 60s, and Damian were recently out tubing at Ski Gull.

“It was faster I remembered,” Johnson said and laughed. “But it was fine. It keeps you young. I’d never be out there with my wife doing that.”

Johnson said his Kinship partners have become like extended family members who continue to keep in touch after they’ve outgrown their time in Kinship Partners.

For Macho, the donation of time by adult mentors is an excellent opportunity for children in the Brainerd lakes area.

“People don’t realize what a big impact these guys are making on the youth here.”

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
(218) 855-5852