North End Community Improvement Collaborative, Inc. (NECIC) has announced a new initiative in partnership with Richland County Children’s Services.

The Open Table will support youth aging out of foster care by building a network of ongoing support and mentorship around the needs of each participant.

“This is a mentoring initiative,” said NECIC Executive Director Deanna West-Torrence. “Six to eight mentors who are screened and trained meet an individual for one hour a week, for a year, to enjoy a meal with the goal of expanding that individual’s relational and social capital.”

“Sometimes, youth aging out of foster care may not have had a family support system,” she explained. “As they are transitioning into adulthood, home and life skills become imperative. Their table of mentors become that person’s network of support.”

According to, “Each Table is composed of a group of volunteers that make a year-long commitment to act, through relationship, as a team of life specialists, encouragers, and advocates. Over the course of a year, the Table works together to set goals, foster accountability, and implement a plan to create change.”

West-Torrence explained that this is a nationwide, evidence-based model. “The outcomes are incredible,” she said, “with 9 out of 10 participants staying in relationships with their table members after completion of their year in the program.”

She added that one-to-one mentoring, especially with an individual with high needs, can be very heavy on one person, but this model allows a shared responsibility, creating a new family-type unit for the individual. Additionally, this model encourages community members to share their assets, make a connection, and be a part of something transformational for the young person.

The initiative is supported by a grant from the SN and Ada Ford Fund.

Those interested in participating should contact NECIC Community Organizer Kay Smith at 419-522-1611, extension 113.

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