Good Works: A match made for those in need; Program offers circle of friendship
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
July 28, 2004
By: Vikki Conwell
John Mayoue discovered that friendship is a gift you give yourself.
When the prominent Atlanta lawyer volunteered nine years ago to befriend a young man with mental illness, he wondered whether he had the skills to handle the responsibility. He questioned whether he could relate to and accept someone from a disadvantaged background, and he even pondered whether he could devote the time needed to spend with the young man.
Finally, Mayoue overcame his apprehensions and met with the then-18-year-old schizophrenic who had lived in and out of foster homes from age 7. The lack of stability and the absence of a father figure in his life caused the young man, Jack Bishop, to become shy, withdrawn and insecure. During his initial meeting with Mayoue, he never looked up.
But with patience, persistence and perseverance, Mayoue and Bishop became friends.
“The more I consistently showed up, the more he opened up,” said Mayoue, who has provided Bishop with his first confidant and significant male role model. “I got him to open up by being reliable and dependable.”
Each week for the past nine years, Mayoue, 50, and Bishop, 27, have met at sporting events, stores and restaurants to talk, listen, share or simply to hang out — all the things that friends do.
“I have gained such a wonderful friend,” said Mayoue, who adjusts his hectic schedule to accommodate weekly outings with Bishop. “Meeting with him is something I look forward to, and it’s something that I do for both of us.”
The twosome met through Compeer, a program that pairs volunteers with adults undergoing treatment for mental illnesses and developmental disabilities. It also works with the isolated elderly.
Volunteers are matched by gender, location and common interests and asked to spend a minimum of four hours each month helping another person feel less isolated and lonely and more a part of their community. The long-term companionship increases the client’s independence, self-esteem and sense of belonging.
“Most people are not aware of how easy it is,” said Roxanne Hazen, resource development coordinator of Compeer. “It doesn’t take a lot to make someone feel special.”
Launched in Atlanta in 1986, Compeer serves more than 300 clients referred by therapists, clinicians or other professional organizations. It also provides group activities and phone services.
Volunteers are recruited from businesses, other nonprofit organizations and churches, and then undergo a training session covering mental illness, developmental disabilities, aging issues and friendship. Demand for volunteers, especially men and minorities, is great as more than 106 clients are waiting.
“Nobody has too many friends,” said Hazen. “We can always use one more.”
Information: Compeer, 678-686-5909, www.compeeratlanta.org.
YOU CAN HELP
* Parents’ and children’s activities. Communities in Schools of Marietta/Cobb County needs volunteer groups to help plan events for parents and children, assist with parent workshops, provide mentoring and other activities. Orientation and training is provided. To volunteer, call Carol Fey, 678-503-0901.
* Quilters needed. Red Hen Fabrics seeks volunteers to help make 200 quilts for local charities. Bring your own sewing machines or use one at the shop. Quilt-for-charity events are held from 6-8 p.m. on the first Tuesday and third Wednesday of every month. A day session is held from 10 a.m.-noon on the first Thursday of each month. Information: 770-794-8549.
LOAD-DATE: July 28, 2004
GRAPHIC: Photo: Compeer participants Jack Bishop (left) and John Mayoue spend some time catching up and hanging out (below) at Fellini’s Pizza during a recent visit. / VASNA WILSON / Staff; Graphic: HOW TO SUBMIT ITEMS
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Copyright 2004 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution