Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, GoodGuides is a mentorship program run by Goodwill Industries. The program, which has fifty-six sites across the country, pairs youths ages 12 to 17 with mentors who fit their strengths, needs and interests. For a minimum of one year, mentors and those they mentor meet weekly to engage in service learning or career skills workshops, as well as to simply spend time together. Joe Van Wie is proud to be a GoodGuides mentor.
When you look into a mirror, you see a reflection of yourself. Sometimes though, if you concentrate very hard and look deep enough, you just may catch a glimpse of someone who has experienced similar life situations. That’s what happened when Elgin Waiters and Joe Van Wie were matched in Goodwill’s GoodGuides Youth Mentoring Program.
“I had similar circumstances growing up – single parent family, low income and living in a housing development,” Joe explained.
Elgin, 15, who is a Freshman at Scranton High School, and his mom met with Joe to see if a match could be struck. It was. And, as they say, the rest is history.
Mr. Van Wie noted his GoodGuides experience helped him as much as it helped Elgin.
“I saw myself in Elgin because I had men in my life that made an impact or I would have been in trouble. What Elgin needed at his age, I needed. Without it, I don’t know what would have happened to me,” Joe noted. “This experience keeps me grounded in reality on what is important and what is not. You can’t deny who you are when you see a vision of yourself. It’s a conscious thing – it reminds me of whom I am. This gives me a chance to repay a debt to all those who have helped me,” he added.
Elgin and Joe meet once a week for six hours doing a variety of things, but their relationship has grown beyond activities.
“Joe is fun to be around. He keeps me company, occupied and staying strong,” Elgin noted.
When Elgin experienced a tragic incident, he trusted in Joe enough to call him about it.
“It was a tough year in general and in school. With Joe in my life, I see myself regaining everything back. He’s like a second father to me,” Elgin said.
“I’m trying to replace a void missing in his life. He had people in his life, but not a lot of them were male. You need a male audience to applaud what he’s done,” Joe explained.
Joe does martial arts, weight training and boxing with Elgin. They also go out shopping and to dinner, especially for N.Y. Strip Steaks. Mr. Van Wie also attends Elgin’s track meets and football games.
“We hang out a lot, go for rides and listen to Jay-Z on the radio,” Joe said.
Joe is also Elgin’s “personal driver,” picking him and his girlfriend up and then dropping them off at the movies on occasion.
Mr. Van Wie is President and Executive Producer of JVW Inc, a film company that shoots movies and ads, and does market research and website development. Elgin helps Joe out at the office by cleaning up, hauling equipment, and, most important of all, watching Joe’s dog.
“There’s nothing I dislike about Joe or GoodGuides. Everything that I was told about it is true,” commented Elgin.
Elgin Waiters and Joe Van Wie both reside in Scranton. Perfect symmetry, right? … Wouldn’t have it any other way.