Dubuque volunteer shares emotional story at United Way kickoff b - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque volunteer shares emotional story at United Way kickoff breakfast

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The United Way of Dubuque Area Tri-States marked the kickoff to its 2014-15 campaign at a breakfast Thursday morning.

Its goal is to raise $1.9 million this fiscal year to help local non-profit organizations.

KWWL anchor Amanda Goodman emceed the event. Among the speakers was Dubuque man Todd Gilligan, who shared his story about volunteering and how it can positively change lives.

Eight years ago, Todd Gilligan signed up to be a mentor for a boy in need.

"I was told that I was going to be working with a young man, who was seven years old. His mother was in jail. He was living with his aunt at the time and had never met his father in his life," Gilligan said to KWWL after the United Way breakfast.

While it's been a rewarding mentoring relationship, Gilligan said, it hasn't always been easy.

"The first time we got together, it was two hours of complete silence," he reminisced. "Didn't speak to me until I told him we were going to go to Dairy Queen, and at that moment, that started our relationship together."

Gilligan is volunteering through Mentor Dubuque, which until January of this year was the Dubuque chapter of Big Brothers, Big Sisters. This organization and others like it ask volunteers to give just four to five hours per month, with a minimum overall commitment of one year.

Gilligan said making the time is easy, since the boy, who is now 15 and in foster care, feels like a member of the family. Gilligan and his wife Meg have three children.

"I think he just likes to be with us and see how we function and vice versa," Meg Gilligan said. "I just want to show him that this is just an average family that, you know, we're trying to do our best raising our three kids and, you know, we gotta get things done sometimes but sometimes we can have fun."

The couple said people don't have to spend money in order to spend quality time mentoring a kid.

"It's not always this lavish visit that we have with him," Meg Gilligan said. "It's just kind of incorporating him into our family lifestyle as we are."

"We try to teach him those family values, and so we try to incorporate him into our family as much as we can," Todd Gilligan said. "I'm not here to be a parent to this young man but to help him with that male figure that he doesn't have in his life."

"I would love to see him graduate high school," Meg Gilligan said. "College would be ideal."

The Gilligans' story exemplifies the message of United Way chapters everywhere: that whether a person's donation is one of money, time or both, it's an investment in the future of the community.

Mentor Dubuque serves 102 kids in Dubuque and Jackson counties, but they still have a waiting list of 45. Program coordinator Amberai Sindlinger said Mentor Dubuque is especially in need of male mentors.

The program gets all of its funding through two streams: the United Way and separate fundraising events. Sindlinger said that's why people's donations to the United Way do help positively impact kids' lives. Each match of a volunteer and kid costs approximately $1,000, Sindlinger said, from background checks on the mentor to supervision and monthly events.

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