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A passing of the BEAM torch

By Staff | Jul 22, 2016

Katy Gonzalez, left, poses with new Blue Earth Area Mentors coordinator Shelly Larsen, who took over the position July 5 and boasts managerial experience from Youth for Christ among other organizations.

Shelly Larsen is still adjusting to her new title in town.

The responsibilities she has as Blue Earth Area Mentors’ new coordinator, however, are quite familiar. As is her long-held interest in serving children, which has driven the Blue Earth Area High School graduate from one impacting opportunity to the next.

Larsen, who lives a mile south of East Chain, took some time off after five years with Martin County Youth for Christ in Fairmont. But her transition back to work she began at BEAM on July 5 has been seamless, in large part because of the work she has come back to do.

“I?thought, ‘Oh, what a great fit,'” Larsen said. “Because I’ve always had a passion for kids and helping them, it’s just something that I?think is really important.”

That has been evidenced by Larsen’s experience prior to joining BEAM, which promotes “positive, healthy lifestyles”?for children and last named a new coordinator in March 2012 when Katy Gonzalez assumed the position. While working with Martin County’s branch of the international Youth for Christ movement, Larsen worked her way from campus life director to executive director, overseeing youth-oriented ministry in and around Fairmont.

Shelly Larsen getting comfortable in her new office.

“It was a huge blessing,”?she said. “It was extremely busy, but the connections I?had with the kids, especially the ones who came from broken homes and who were struggling it was a great opportunity to reach out to those kids and walk alongside them.”

Larsen’s time in the city was also devoted to Fairmont Area Kinship, a mentoring program similar to BEAM that allowed her to interact one-on-one with other children. In fact, Kinship, which Larsen said now has more than 60 mentor-mentee matches after combining with Martin County Mentoring, is still home to one of Larsen’s own mentees and will continue to be as Larsen adjusts to the Blue Earth community.

“I am still in the mentor program in Kinship,”?she said, “and Katy actually still has a mentee here in Blue Earth, so we’ll both keep those connections.”

Speaking of connections, Larsen has plenty of those in the area. After attending Rochester Community and Technical College, she worked in sales for KBEW?Radio. Her parents, Don and Linda Adams, still live in town, and it helps, of course, that she also went to high school in Blue Earth. But she is already noticing other things that make BEAM?feel just like home.

“I probably met about seven of the kids in the program, and that’s one of my first priorities, getting out and meeting all the kids, their families,” she said. “It’s funny, though, because one of the kids walked in, and I?saw a resemblance right away and said, ‘I know your mother.'”

She knew some of the BEAM mentors already, too.

“One of them, our board president, was once my teacher.”

Immersing herself in the community will be key for Larsen to continue building BEAM, which had 26 matches in the last year and hosts organization-wide events at least once a month. Also key will be making a difference in the lives of those who participate.

“What most excites me,”?Larsen said, “is the opportunity to reach out to kids who need a caring, loving adult in their life and being able to be a part of an organization whose mission is to provide that.”

At the same time, she is looking to balance her duties in the office, which figure to occupy between 20 and 30 hours per week, with a family of her own.

“Compared to Youth for Christ, I’m cutting back a little, and Katy is, too, just because she has two small kids and she’s actually assisting the Fairmont Kinship,”?Larsen said. “My husband, Shane, and I?have two daughters:?Kayleigh, who’s 24 and getting married in December, and Kassidy, who’s 18 and will start attending South Dakota State University in August.”

Family time will not be hindered by her new responsibilities at BEAM, however, as Larsen said she still gets to “dig into where my heart is.”

That includes everything from organizing a mentee board made up of children, planning events for the kids and matching local mentors to the hopeful youngsters in the first place.

Nearly a decade of work for Fairmont’s Lakeview Health Services helped enrich her fundraising experience, but a passion for nonprofits for helping the kids should make everything else just a little bit smoother.

“My heart was always in helping,”?she said.

With July 25 pegged for a trip to Prairie River Camp, where BEAM?mentors and mentees will come together for rock climbing and a dinner together, Larsen is already taking steps to get involved.

“We want the kids to take ownership, too, and get them involved,”?she said. “They really love to help.”

Fitting words from a woman whose new role is driven by those very kids and happily so.