In the last week I have had the pleasure of doing Senior Exit Interviews with our graduating senior mentors. These are always my most favorite things to do. This is where I get to hear all of the best stories from our mentors and their time in Project Friendship. We spend time laughing at all of the fun things these mentors have done with their mentees, and reminisce about all of the silly things they did as mentors.  We also spend time crying and sad that this time in the mentors lives are passing and they truly do miss their mentees when they graduate. I would say that about half of the mentors do stay in contact with their mentee and often, at some point in their lives as they grow, their relationship turns from mentor/mentee to friends.  THOSE make the best stories.

Second, McKenna, a St. Olaf and Project Friendship Alum contacted me about a fun day of science. Obviously we can't actually all get together and do a fun day of science but she made a video for mentors to share with their mentees! I wanted to share this with you to illustrate how Project Friendship is adapting and making the best of this situation. We are alive and thriving! We are still making matches and still changing lives. Check out the video (Thanks McKenna!!!)

Next, Project Friendship needs your help and support. These are difficult times for everybody. Unfortunately for non-profits – especially smaller non-profits like Project Friendship – this storm is financially more of a hurricane. In an effort to be transparent, about a third of our annual income comes from the Carleton Garage sale and we are so grateful to be one of the groups that benefits from this event.  However because of COVID-19, the garage sale isn't happening this summer.
Which means Project Friendship is hurting financially. In an effort to raise money needed to keep Project Friendship afloat and thriving, I am looking into various ways we can raise the extra money needed to keep Project Friendship as strong as ever. If you have any ideas please pass them along.

One of those ideas is to sell Project Friendship t-shirts. I am working with a few local, and not so local companies to see what our best options are to raise money for Project Friendship though t-shirt sales. Check out the t-shirts that I had designed. We are hoping others will get behind Project Friendship and support these efforts.  As soon as I have more information I will pass that along and would be so grateful if you would consider purchasing a t-shirt to help support Project Friendship.   More info coming soon. Follow us on Facebook for more info as we get it.

Amazingly, we are at about 90 percent of our mentors and mentees meeting online or in other ways. Mentors and mentees are having lunch together via zoom, they are playing games together via FaceTime, and texting, and talking on the phone. Even snail mail has been happening. We are still making a few new matches throughout all of this. We have about 15 mentors waiting to be matched with kids and are committed to making these relationships happen, even at a distance. 

Now more than ever we are seeing the impact of positive relationships in the lives of children. Project Friendship has no plans of going anywhere. We are here to serve Northfield and serve the children in whatever ways we need to. We truly are #northfieldstrong.

Holly Schoenbauer
Executive Director
Office: (507) 301-7705
Cell: (952) 393-9558

Facebook |

Project Friendship's Story

Project Friendship has a rich history in the community that dates back to 1965. Since then it is estimated that 5,000 local children have been matched with a mentor.

In 1965, a group of Northfield women came together with the idea of matching Northfield Elementary School students with St. Olaf and Carleton College students as a friend and role model. Merrell Thornton and Diane Enebeck agreed to serve as co-directors for two years in 1970. At that time, Project Friendship recruited 10-15 mothers who each managed 10 student/college student pairs. Matches were made based on gender and similar interests.

In 1974, the board hired Sharon Day as the first paid director. Laurie Cowles followed and, under her direction, Project Friendship flourished servicing over 100 students each year over a 20 year period of time. Laurie turned over her responsibilities to Carolyn Svenson. In 1996, Kathy Lansing directed the program with help from consultant Joan Lizsola (assisting to help better serve our Hispanic community). In August of 2014, Sarah VanSickle was hired as the first Executive Director. She grew the program from 46 matches back to 130! Holly Schoenbauer took over in September of 2019.