The Lionheart mentoring program is busy preparing for its second Christmas. The organization was founded by David Taylor, director of The Door in Bellwood, in 2016 with the intention of providing both housing and guidance to young men who found themselves with nowhere to turn.
Specifically aimed at boys between 18 and 24 years of age, Lionheart focuses on preparing young men for the road ahead of them and teaching them what they need to know about housing, employment, finances and transportation.
“It’s not a shelter; it’s a residential program,” said Taylor. “We give them complete housing for 18 to 24 months, and while they’re with us, we teach them important life skills.”
The program shows the young men in its care how to find an apartment and furnishings; how to do basic carpentry, plumbing and electrical repairs; and how to pay rent, utilities and various insurances. It also teaches them important financial skills such as how to budget wages, how to open and maintain a bank account, how to prepare for future expenses and how to avoid debts and understand credit.
While being housed at Lionheart, residents are expected to complete household chores and participate in life skill classes and spiritual mentoring.
“They also have to get a job while they’re with us,” Taylor went on to say. “We help them find employment, and they work anywhere from 35 to, ideally, 40 hours a week.”
In addition to providing the young men with employment opportunities, Lionheart also offers transportation to work and any clothing that might be necessary for a job. The program also gives young men advice on how to do well in a job interview and how to succeed in the workplace.
Over the course of their stay, Lionheart residents are also required to participate in a savings reward program to help lower the weight of real-world expenses. The savings typically result in each young man having between $4,000 and $7,500 available to obtain housing, furnishings and transportation needed to start an independent life.
This year, for Christmas, Lionheart residents are given wish lists similar to those given to teens at The Door. They are then asked to write down a wish for each of the three categories that are listed: small, medium and large. Gifts that fall under the small wish category can cost up to $30, medium wishes can cost up to $50, and large wishes may be up to $100.
“For their first Christmas with us, we also like to give each young man a high-quality toolbox and tools,” said Taylor. “We strive to provide them with the tools they need to succeed at life—both literally and metaphorically.”
For more information about or to donate to Lionheart, visit www.lionheartprogram.com.