Danville Parks and Recreation Department to develop new youth mentor program

Department using 3-year, $110,000 grant

DANVILLE, Va. – A Tuesday morning meeting at Ballou Park in Danville marked the beginning of the creation of the framework for a mentor program that will hopefully help close to two dozen kids in Danville.

"We're here visiting Danville, really conducting a listening tour and trying to get a better understanding of what's happening on the ground in this community," National Recreation and Park Association director of health Allison Colman said.

The association has awarded the Danville Parks and Recreation Department $110,000 from a grant from the Department of Justice to create a mentor program.

The money will be used to cover the cost of staffing, marketing and equipment.

"While the program's intention is really to combat the opioid epidemic, we're asking that agencies focus on a number of other issues as well," Colman said.

The goal is to reach at least 20 kids ages 5 to 12 over three years through one-on-one mentoring.

The Parks and Recreation Department's current efforts to mentor kids is why it was chosen as one of five in rural central Appalachia to help develop a mentor program model that parks and rec departments across the country can use.

Danville Parks and Recreation community recreation division director Jason Bookheimer said this will be a great learning experience.

"We're looking to see how we can start integrating this program into a lot of the different services and kids that we already reach now and also help some of our community members out who are already doing some of this work," Bookheimer said.

The framework for the program will be presented to the five parks and recreation departments in November and then they will start implementing it in January.

Bookheimer said the department will likely try to work with kids already active with the department.

Anyone interested in being a mentor can contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 434-799-5200.