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HobbyTown workers serve as mentors

By Hal Miller
Published: June 6, 2012

HobbyTown USA is giving back to its community through participation in a mentoring program for challenged youth.

Company president Bob Wilke says employees at the corporate office in Lincoln, Neb. are participating in the Teammates Program, donating staff time. Each HTU employee in the program spends an hour a week mentoring a challenged youth in the Lincoln public school system. Right now, about 25% of the staff — 13 employees, including Wilke — are involved.

HobbyTown’s entrée to the program actually came through Wilke. His in-laws, Tom and Nancy Osborne, started the Teammates program in 1991 in the Lincoln Public Schools. Since then it has grown to 5,000 mentor/student matches in Nebraska, Iowa and California.

Wilke has been active as a Teammates Mentor for five years. He says as part of HTU’s strategic plan in 2012, he wanted to find a way for the staff members to engage the community. Wilke also wanted to provide his staff members with an opportunity to contribute to the development of young people as positive role models.

The program started at HTU last fall and the company has a goal of 20 mentors.

"In this day of tighter budgets for giving meaningful charitable contributions, mentoring is a resourceful way to give back to your community and enjoy seeing the fruits of your efforts first hand," Wilke said.

The mentors meet weekly with the students during the school year and occasionally at activities outside school.

The mentors gives a consistent presence in the sometimes unstable life of the young person and helps guide the student in school and life. The hour can be spent assisting with school work, playing games or just talking.

In the months that HTU has been participating in the program, the mentors are seeing improved attendance, grades and socialization skills with the students. Wilke says the Teammates program as a whole has been very successful in contributing to higher graduation rates and pursuit of post-secondary education by mentees.