Charles McFadden began serving as a mentor with Villa Maria in 2005 after he met a residential treatment counselor from Villa Maria at a Bible study class. When the counselor mentioned that there were so many African-American boys living at Villa Maria, but very few African-American male mentors, Charles began to think, “I have the time, along with the desire and willingness to share myself with another person, this is my opportunity to help.”

Villa Maria Residential Treatment Center serves children ages 5 to 14 who have special behavioral and emotional needs, sometimes stemming from neglect and abuse. Villa Maria mentors are special visitors, positive role models, and consistent people in children’s lives. Mentors commit for a period of one year and give at least one hour each week.

Charles has been mentoring Michael* since 2005 and recently earned a Presidential Volunteer Service Award for donating more than 100 hours to his mentee. The two meet once a week where they do a variety of activities such as shopping, going to restaurants, bowling, riding bikes, playing video games, shooting basketball, or just talking and joking. Michael said of Charles, “You are the best mentor I have ever had in my life. You are strong like Superman, Batman and the Hulk.”

“All of the children at Villa Maria love spending time with their mentors, they feel special because someone is taking the time to come see them and spend time with them. It can be challenging at times given the situations that the children are coming from, but you just have to show patience and understanding. Despite a few tough days, the relationship I have with Michael is extremely rewarding and has enriched my life. I have had an opportunity to see him truly transform and make a 180-degree change from the first time we met. That change has a lot to do with the staff and the treatment at Villa Maria, but I know that I also had a part in reshaping his life,” says Charles.