Men Taking Over Reforming Society (M.E.N.T.O.R.S., Inc.)
M.E.N.T.O.R.S., Inc. is on a mission to provide a space of refuge for the Black community in South Los Angeles. By facilitating support services for Black parents, M.E.N.T.O.R.S. creates social networks that are healthy, safe, and informative havens of growth. Peers and experts work together to promote better outcomes for both parents and their babies.
M.E.N.T.O.R.S. “plans to block the pathway from social stress to physiological stress by reinforcing social connection in peer-to-peer groups, providing trustworthy support in day-to-day and respite care, and providing violence and stress reduction classes. In essence, our organization will provide the gathering place wherein young parents can learn about infant health, parenting, and mental health and develop a community of peer and professional support,” it stated in its Village Fund grant application. “We will also provide resources to underserved parents (to alleviate financial stresses) and facilitate a mutual aid network among participant parents and volunteers.”
The Black-led organization believes that it is important for the Black community to be stewards of its people, due to shared experiences and mutual understanding. When the organization applied for the Village Fund, they made this important point clear: “Our staff possess the know-how to support our clients because we’ve lived their struggles. In fostering a learning and supportive network that can be trusted by the Black community, we are addressing issues of Black infant and maternal mortality by enhancing the support system that palliates the stresses of everyday racism.”
By alleviating the stressors of racism by providing a safe space, peer support, and access to resources and services for Black parents and families, M.E.N.T.O.R.S. hopes to improve the rates of Black infant and maternal mortality, which studies show is the primary cause of negative health outcomes for both groups. Its Community Center is the physical location within South LA where program participants can go to receive social support, feel less isolated, and learn more about relieving stress and building self-confidence. The Center holds weekly support groups and classes which reinforce community and teach participants about the origins of stress and how to manage it, while also serving as a resource hub.
The drop-in Center is open and available to people within the community not only during times of crisis, but on a daily basis. Donated resources are available at the Center including diapers, bassinets, and other baby items. It also provides light respite care in the form of a baby day-care, which allows participants to take necessary breaks, as well as time to engage in programming, go grocery shopping, and other essential errands.
M.E.N.T.O.R.S. and The Village Fund
With the Village Fund’s assistance, M.E.N.T.O.R.S. has continued its work in fostering the community support necessary to redress some of the isolating and difficult challenges that new parents face, such as loneliness and postpartum depression, and enhance the joyous celebration of each healthy birth within a safe community. As a young and emerging non-profit, the community and network support that the African American Infant and Maternal Mortality Initiative has provided has enabled M.E.N.T.O.R.S. to blossom into a sustainable and thriving organization. Since becoming a Village Fund grantee, the organization has bolstered program capacity and can now serve an increasing number of clients. They have also recently secured $10,000 in additional funding to continue their work.
The Village Fund is helping M.E.N.T.O.R.S. to continue to facilitate its Mommy & Me classes, violence prevention classes, and support groups for single fathers by enabling it to hire staff that embodies its mission, are qualified teachers, and who are also Black women who have lived experience within the South LA community. It is becoming recognized as a community-based change-maker in the African-American community. “We are truly overjoyed to be upheld as Black community caretakers, to meet and be inspired by similar people, and to link with a network of similarly-minded movers and shakers at the funder level,” said Cyrus Kay, M.E.N.T.O.R.S., Inc, Development Officer.
“The AAIMM program has had a profound impact on our clients,” continued Kay. “We encounter the same story a lot: that one or more parent has lost employment during COVID and the family is teetering on homelessness. In allowing them food, hygiene products, and baby goods, we are offsetting crucial expenses, allowing flexibility to pay utility bills and other crucial expenses for staying in a home. But more than that, there is a palpable joy among clients who participate in the M.E.N.T.O.R.S. AAIMM program, and we are happy to celebrate the distribution of baby goods with other fun hygiene product giveaways like hair extensions, other beauty products, etc. We love making moms (and dads and grandmas!) feel good about themselves.”
10200 S Main Street
Los Angeles, CA 90003
Toni Wells-Bryant, Executive Director of M.E.N.T.O.R.S.
Email: [email protected]