Jim & Ila: One couple making a difference

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day this month, LSS Mentoring Services would like to introduce you to Jim and Ila Ahrendt. The couple recently celebrated 50 years of marriage and both mentor at RF Pettigrew Elementary.

Ila began mentoring several years ago when employed at CNA Surety. When she retired, she started mentoring at Pettigrew. Jim started a few years ago after hearing more about the program at their church, Peace Lutheran, where Jim currently works. Peace Lutheran has a partnership with Pettigrew and has encouraged its members to volunteer at the school. In addition to mentoring, Ila spends time each week helping at the school office.

Mentoring is a natural fit for both Jim and Ila. They are active volunteers with a few different organizations in Sioux Falls, but have enjoyed the opportunity to see real change by mentoring. And, they have fun! “I can’t help but tell others about mentoring because it’s fun and I enjoy it so much,” said Ila.

Through their shared experience, the couple said that they sometimes talk about mentoring. Last year they had sessions where they both met with their student at the same time. Jim and Ila and each of their mentees all decorated cookies together for Valentine’s Day last year.

They both have great students to work with. Ila said her mentee recently asked her to come every day, not just one day a week. Jim oftentimes goes outside with his mentee, but also spends time working on puzzles or going through books.

If anyone is hesitant about trying mentoring, both Jim and Ila would encourage them to give it a try. “We are just like grandparents to the kids,” said Jim. “There are a lot of kids that need someone extra in their life.” Ila added, “Kids appreciate anyone who is willing to spend time with them. I have never had a student who is not excited to have a mentor. The benefits are there and it is a great experience.”

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