Pam Bundy has a knack for remembering little details that make all the difference.
For the past 14 years, Bundy tapped that talent to match children looking for another positive adult in their lives with mentors willing to give their time. She listened for details in interviews and mentally filed them away until they sparked, lighting up the best match. And she did it 500 times.
Now she runs into grown children she interviewed long ago who are still connected to their mentors. In many cases they became extended family members.
Now, Bundy is retiring from Kinship Partners in Brainerd and leaving a job she loves.
“It’s been 14 years of incredible employment,” Bundy said. “I don’t think you could have a more fun job. I’m going to miss it.”
She arrived as an activities director coordinating Kinship events in Crosby and then handling the entire Crosby office. At that time, she watched the Kinship matchmaker in Brainerd and knew that was the job she wanted. When the program coordinator position opened in Brainerd, Bundy stepped in. It’s a job she has now been in for 12 years.
Being part of a mentoring organization was a natural fit. Years ago when Bundy lived in Minneapolis, she was a Big Sister. She always enjoyed learning about people, talking with them and learning about their lives. Everyone has a story.
Beyond a great ability for recall and an intuitive sense about people, Bundy’s history is an example of determination. Married and a mother, she always kept at least a part-time job. As her children grew, she knew she had another goal she wanted to achieve. Bundy enrolled in college as a non-traditional student. The first experience was a little rough. Her first test came back with a D.
But Bundy was determined to succeed. She made the transition to college student graduating from Central Lakes College with all As and she continued to appreciate the experience and excel.
She enrolled in Bemidji State College to study psychology. It meant commuting several days a week and staying overnight in dorms for traveling students. Her husband, Randy, and her boys, picked up the slack at home with a few helping hands. She graduated summa cum laude with all her grades at the A level.
“I know I made the right decision,” Bundy said of her college degree. “I loved it. It was a family accomplishment and I’ve never regretted it. It was really worth it.”
Bundy drew on her college education for her work at Kinship Partners and largely on her interest in others. She said benefits came in seeing the matched children and adults blossom. When she had her last child, a son, eight years after his three brothers, Bundy gained a helper who came along with her to Kinship activities and events.
Now 62, Bundy’s grown sons are far-flung across the country from Minnesota to Pennsylvania to San Francisco and New Orleans. Retirement, she said, opens more opportunities to visit and spend time with five grandchildren.
A health care incident for her husband, who had heart bypass surgery, was also an incentive to take some time away from an office desk and focus on enjoying their time together. They’ve taken trips to rediscover their former home of Minneapolis from movies to park concerts.
But as she sat at her desk for one of the last times recently, Bundy said there are always misgivings when leaving a job, especially one that has meant so much.
She thinks of the mentors who have ranged from high school students to retirees in their 80s. Single adults, young couples, empty nesters and families have all taken on mentoring roles in young lives in the lakes area. Currently there are 250 matches going but still 20 children on the waiting list in Brainerd. Referrals typically come from the school system. Many of the children are from single-parent families.
Nearly anyone can be a mentor, Bundy said. Many of the children enjoy sports or the outdoors or just being part of everyday activities.
“They just want somebody to pay attention to them,” Bundy said. “Every kid deserves to have somebody excited about what they have to say.”