Rotary, faith groups know the value of mentoring

The Shallow Ford Foundation has been fortunate to work with generous individuals and organizations who want to truly impact the lives of students of all ages. In part two of this series, we will look at how two local organizations are making mentoring connections with students, including an opportunity for new mentors to step forward in the coming months.

Greg Keener
September 16, 2021

Clarence “Big House” Gaines was a coach to many student athletes during his career. But, like so many mentors, he was so much more. He was a motivator, encourager and positive life-changing influence on many students at Winston-Salem State University.

The Reynolda Rotary honors Coach Gaines, a founding member of their club, with an annual scholarship, which contains a mentoring benefit as well. The Shallow Ford Foundation assists in awarding the scholarship each year.

Michael Clements, the chair of the Scholarship Committee at Reynolda Rotary, says, “I’m a living testament to the value of those kinds of relationships. I was fortunate to have a couple of men who took me under their wings when I was 15. I’ve had a good career, a good education, a good income, and I don’t think my life would have turned out that way without those men.”

Anabel Romero has volunteered to work as a mentor with scholarship recipient Shamonni Graham this year. Romero plans to connect with Graham, a freshman at Winston-Salem State University, soon.

“The scholarship was created to support students at a particular school, Cook Elementary. In the last couple of years, we tried to make a connection with the student and people in our Rotary. In our club, we have doctors and lawyers and accountants and teachers and business people, people from non-profit organizations. We might have someone in Rotary who can help them. So many students today need to have someone to help them make decisions, to see things in a different way, so they can have better outcomes. The distractions today are much greater than they were when I was growing up. The value of that kind of relationship in a professional or a career way is critical,” says Clements.

Interfaith Alliance of Clemmons and Lewisville: Looking for new mentors

The Shallow Ford Foundation also played a supporting role in the creation of the Interfaith Alliance of Clemmons and Lewisville. This group of faith leaders have found meaningful ways to meet identified needs at local schools, from collecting school supplies and clothes to teacher appreciation events. Now, they are working towards providing mentorships to local students. This school year, the Interfaith Alliance is partnering with Big Brothers and Big Sisters to provide mentoring to students at Morgan Elementary and Ward Elementary schools.

Dr. Vincent Howell leads the Interfaith Alliance of Clemmons and Lewisville and shares, “Mentoring is important for our youth. Mentors can share their experiences, knowledge, support and advice. We are looking for members of the community to volunteer as mentors. We’ll provide training. This will be an experience where mentors can provide a positive influence in a child’s life in the challenging times we are living. Anyone interested can feel free to reach out to me.”

Those interested can email Dr. Howell at

Anyone able to commit to a mentoring relationship will surely feel personal fulfillment and observe the same positive growth as they walk alongside the student.

Brett Hoge is a current member of the Shallow Ford Foundation’s board of directors, as well as a former Big Brothers/Big Sisters board member. He’s mentored three little brothers, two of which he and his wife Wendy and daughters have remained in contact with for over 20 years.

Looking back, Brett says, “Those boys changed my life. Wendy and I did it together as a family and my girls to this day still call them their brothers.”

Brett’s reflection on his mentorship experience illustrates the impact mentoring can have.

He adds, “The single most important thing I have done in life is to change the direction of those boys and give them opportunities and experiences they didn’t have otherwise.”

Greg Keener is program officer with the Shallow Ford Foundation.