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Blacklick Volunteer recognized for her service
Sally Wood, right, is pictured with Khadeza, a young girl she mentors as part of the Franklin County Children's Services volunteer program.
In and out of foster homes her entire youth, Khadeza’s life has been far from easy.
One of eight siblings, this Linden McKinley High School student, who requested that her last name be withheld, has had individuals come in and out of her life for the past 17 years.
One, however, strives to be committed to her.
Sally Wood of Blacklick has been an influence on Khadeza since she was 11 years old. She speaks fondly of the young lady, talking about how grown up Khadeza has become in the past five years. While Khadeza is now a teenager and not needing as much from Wood, the mentor insists on being there nonetheless.
“Teenagers don’t need you as much. They need you to be a constant,” Wood said. “I have been a constant for her. Just like parents, they want you to be around, but at a distance. She can count on me. I will listen to her and just be a presence.”
Wood was matched with Khadeza as part of the Franklin County Children’s Services volunteer program. Together, they have volunteered at Faith Mission, serving food to the homeless. They also have worked the ticketing booth at the Columbus Children's Theatre and Phoenix Theatre for Children. They go shopping and get their nails done, like many girls, and have gone to see the Columbus Crew play as well.
“I think the match has worked because I don’t judge her,” Wood said. “I don’t talk down to her. I don't berate her. As she’s growing into a teenager. They make choices. They make decisions. You stand in the background and you pray when you are not with her. You hope something you’ve said will stick with her. She needs me and I need her. I learn a lot from her, too.”
Wood was nominated as a local outstanding mentor through the Mentoring Center of Central Ohio. The center, a coalition of more than 40 youth-mentoring organizations, is celebrating National Mentoring Month with a reception Jan. 13 to honor some of Central Ohio’s outstanding mentors and mentees.
Mentoring awards are given annually by State Representative and Minority Leader Joyce Beatty. Businesses involved in mentoring are celebrated as well as part of the Honor Roll of Mentoring.
“Sally has never lost contact with this child,” said Leesa Evans, volunteer recruiter for FCCS, in her nomination of Wood. “Sally is very active in the community and wants to instill values.”
To Khadeza, Wood is someone who she confides in and seems to know what she is thinking.
“Sally just knows me,” Khadeza said in the nomination letter. “She can always make me feel better even without making me talk about what is hurting. Sally teaches me about being organized and always having a plan. She also helps me feel less angry about my life and teaches me to walk away from conflict.”
As Khadeza’s 17th birthday quickly approaches, Wood says the reality of life is starting to set in.
The two, along with Wood’s husband and Khadeza’s new guardian, are discussing what the teenager’s plans are for the future and what she wants to do.
“Does she go out on her own?” Wood said. “She may not have all the tools and all the knowledge, and know how to make it on her own. My husband and I, we have a home base, and her guardian is a great home base.”
This is important, Wood says, so she always has a home.
“There is no one out there,” Wood said. “These kids are struggling and need food to eat and can get into trouble on their own. If she goes out on her own, she knows that she can come back. She has me. That’s what young women and men face when they get out of high school and are emancipated. Having a support system that she can fall back on is important.”
Wood doesn’t see Khadeza’s growing up as an end to their relationship.
“I don’t know if it will end completely,” she said. “I imagine she would always keep in touch with me. I hope she makes good decisions and does well in her life.”
This may be an end, she says, but it also could be another bend in the journey of life.
“She’s a young woman now,” Wood said. “I'm OK with it. That’s what you’re called to do - for a space in time, to touch a person’s life and send them on and hopefully they will never forget you. I will never forget her.”
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