Posts Tagged: Paul Bauhs

Mentoring: Thanks for Being A Friend

Northeast Iowa Youth Mentoring program celebrates 20 years of services

By Aryn Henning Nichols

Kathy Schwartzhoff sits in an office in Helping Services for Youth and Family, a stack of papers neatly piled in front of her – details and history at the ready as she shares stories from her two decades working as mentoring coordinator in Northeast Iowa. The office is situated in a cozy house on a corner lot in Decorah, but Kathy’s not “home” there often. She’s more likely traveling around the region playing – but really, working – matchmaker.

It’s not matchmaking like you might think. Kathy is a friendship matchmaker. She makes mentor matches for kids looking for time with an adult, or a fun reason to get out and explore, or kids simply wanting to make another friend.

“Lasting relationships,” Kathy says. “That’s the life force of mentoring.”

“One man – every time I see him, he gives me an update like, ‘My guy called to talk about college with me,’” she continues. “They’re still in each others’ lives. And that’s just one person sharing his story. I hear the same kinds of stories from people who have only done mentoring for a year.”

The concept behind mentoring is really pretty simple: Connect a youth with a responsible adult, and build a healthy friendship. Mentors are not parents, psychologists, or social workers. Rather, they’re role models, sharing their time and experiences with a young person.

Winneshiek County celebrated 20 years of providing kids mentors in January of 2018, and the two-decade anniversary for Howard and Allamakee was November 2018. Delaware County began in 2009.

Kathy has led the Winneshiek program from the start, and she’s been in charge of all three of the Northeast Iowa county programs for the last 15 years.

But it all started at a meeting amongst various local non-profits and agencies.

“Someone said, ‘We’ve been hearing about mentoring programs. Is anyone interested?’” Kathy says. “Eight or 10 people raised their hands, and we were off.”

“It took two years to get it going. We built it from scratch,” she continues. “We looked at a lot of programs across the country – pamphlets, information… I mean this was before the Internet. We gathered everything and picked what we thought would best suit the program we wanted to build.”

Everyone took little portions, and slowly, they put together criteria and training, and launched the program with just 10 mentors and mentees.

“We had no money. No other volunteers. No staff. Now try doing that,” Kathy says with a laugh.

The process for mentors goes like this: After potential mentors fill out an application, they complete an interview with Kathy and a two-hour training. Once approved, their basic requirements are that they spend four hours per month with their mentee and they sign on for at least a one-year commitment. Mentors can be individuals, couples (or two friends) or a family.

“As soon as I get an application, I call them on the phone,” Kathy says. “I’m in the business of building relationships, and I want to build a relationship with you as well.”

Decorah resident and business owner Paul Bauhs has been a mentor since April of 2017. His mentee, Jacob – or Jake – is eight years old.

“I signed up to be a mentor for a couple of reasons,” Paul says. “First, since I’m single with two grown kids who live out of the area, my life seemed to have gotten pretty self-centered. Mentoring seemed like a good way to ‘give back.’ Secondly, I like the idea of being a supportive friend to someone just starting out in life, sharing ideas and skills and interests, doing projects, and just plain having fun.”

They have a regular Wednesday evening ping pong match, and hang out on weekends when the schedule allows. It’s rewarding for both mentor and mentee.

“The best part of being a mentor for me, I think, is being that supportive friend that Jake can count on for serious discussions if need be,” Paul says, “as well as someone to enjoy all kinds of fun activities with.”

Jake agrees. “I like getting to do all the fun stuff like rollerskating and ping pong,” he says. And what kid wouldn’t? As for Becca, Jake’s mom, she says she wanted her son to have a positive role model outside of the family. Paul and Jake have hit it off well, and that’s in large part to Kathy’s specialty: Making a good match between mentor and mentee.

“A big part is personality,” she says. “The criteria can fit, but that doesn’t mean the personalities will.”

To become a mentee, youth must be between ages five and 16, live or attend school in Winneshiek, Allamakee, Delaware, or Howard County, and both kid and parent(s) must agree on the child having a mentor. The mentee / parents fill out an application, and then they have an interview with Kathy, where she asks the child questions about interests and wishes for an ideal role model. Kathy spends a lot of time listening and observing – she’s honed her skill over decades of experience in making a good mentor/mentee match.

“People sometimes say, ‘Kathy, how do you do that?’” she says. “Part of it is watching people’s mannerisms…How they talk. How they are. It’s not always what they say, but how they are. That helps me know if it’s right.”

Since day one, more than 1000 kids have been connected to a role model through youth mentoring. There are currently 76 kids taking part in Helping Services Youth Mentoring here in Northeast Iowa. And the impact of these friendships made between mentor and mentee goes deeper than just the two of them. Add in any other kids in the family, parents, and friends, and you’ve got a pretty wide-reaching, positive influence.

This January marks the 17th anniversary of National Mentoring Month. There are currently about 25 to 30 kids waiting to find a mentor here. For four hours a month, a mentor could help these kids add more positive experiences to their lives.

“It doesn’t have to be a fancy-schmancy outing,” Kathy says. “We had one mentee who was so excited to simply wash a car with his mentor one sunny day.”

There are also opportunities to “try it out” or sign on with less commitment though events. These are fun group outings like picnics, trips to local museums, and more. A Mentor For A Day is a person who has agreed to attend a mentoring event as a friend to a youth whose regular mentor could not attend, or one who is on the waiting list for a mentor.

These events are popular for mentors, mentees, Mentors For A Day, staff…pretty much all who attend.

“I asked Jacob what he thought about a recent event they attended, and his reply was, ‘I just liked being here. Being with the people I was with.’” Kathy says. “It just as simple as that.”

“We have this opportunity to make a difference in these kids’ lives,” she continues. “What they are facing at home? What are their challenges? Where do they find joy? All I know for sure is that Jacob found joy that day.”

Aryn Henning Nichols thinks the Helping Services Youth Mentoring Program is great, and encourages you to check it out if you’re even just a little bit interested. Let’s spread more positivity in this world!

Go to www.helpingservices.org/youth-mentoring-services/ to apply or get more information.

Artist Feature: Paul Bauhs

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Woodworker Paul Bauhs takes the road less traveled

By Sara Friedl-Putnam • Photos by Kyrl Henderson
Originally published in the Winter 2012-13 Inspire(d)

Paul Bauhs lives barely 10 miles past Decorah’s city limits, yet his house (and adjacent workshop) feels much more remote. So off-the-beaten-path is Bauhs, in fact, that many first-time visitors get at least a little lost; bears are not unheard-of neighbors; and, yes, even MapQuest doesn’t get the route quite right.

bauhs_paulIt was the secluded nature of this breathtaking piece of land along the Upper Iowa River that first lured this talented woodworker to Decorah three decades ago – and it’s also one of the main reasons he can’t ever envision leaving. This homestead is where he has, quite literally, carved out a niche for himself in Northeast Iowa’s rich artisan community.

“I love Decorah,” says Bauhs. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else.” Nor can he imagine making a living any way else. A native of Waverly, Iowa, Bauhs has always, as he puts it, “been good with my hands.” And he’s always been fascinated by wood. As a child, he would spend hours at a time at the local lumberyard. “It was my favorite place to hang,” he says. “I thought the guys who worked there had the coolest jobs in the world.”

By his early teens, he had graduated from admiring wood to working with it. His first piece? A rustic aquarium cabinet. “It looked pretty good and didn’t fall down,” he says with a laugh. “That was a time when experimentation was its own reward.”

bauhs_irregsBauhs would go on to graduate from Wartburg College, a small liberal arts college in his hometown, with a degree in psychology and plenty of studio art classes on his transcript. Though he considered a career in art education – and took classes at both Wartburg and, later, the University of Iowa in that discipline – it was during a three-year apprenticeship working alongside the master craftsmen at the famed Amana (Iowa) Furniture Shop that he found his life’s calling. He learned how to choose just the right piece of wood for a given project, how to set up machinery (and set it up right), and how to work with tools like a planer to size the thickness of boards and a drill press to make holes in those boards.

“I had no professional skills to speak of when I started there and had to learn the ‘language’ of woodworking,” says Bauhs. “Even though there wasn’t much creativity involved, the repetition of making the same furniture designs over and over made it a great place to learn.”

By the early 80s, Bauhs was yearning for “a different way of life” than a city could provide – a place where he could work as vegetable grower (also a longtime passion), pursue interests like woodworking and canoeing, and help raise a family. Determined to find just the right spot, he spent years looking at property throughout Northeast Iowa before finally landing on the 33 acres where he still resides and where he raised his two sons, Aaron and Logan. “When we came down through the woods, I just knew,” he says. “The house was in pretty rough shape, but that wasn’t really a consideration – you can always change the house, but you can’t change the land.”

PaulBauhsRiver

Today that house – a circa 1865 log cabin with a much newer wood-frame addition – is equal part home and showroom, a testament to Bauhs’s prodigious woodworking talent. Crafted over the course of a 20-year home-renovation process, his handiwork enlivens every room – from the live-edge honey locust stair rail to the live-edge elm mantel (his favorite piece) that decorates a living room so full of his visually commanding furniture that, upon entering the room, it’s difficult to decide where to look first. “I’m a very visual person,” he says of finding inspiration. “That’s a big reason why I enjoy woodworking so much.”

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As his home might suggest, while Bauhs is skilled in working with all kinds of wood, he particularly enjoys the challenge of transforming live-edge wood – or wood that retains its natural edges, knots, and wild-grain patterns – into furniture and cabinetry that both function well and look great. “It takes some creativity to figure out what to do with the natural character of a piece of wood, but I like that challenge,” he says, adding, “I think people are yearning for more nature in their homes, and that’s why this type of woodwork resonates with so many folks.”

Having turned avocation into vocation over the last three decades, Bauhs has crafted cabinetry and furniture (both more traditional and live edge) that can be found in homes, offices, and kitchens throughout the region, as well as St. Ben’s Catholic Church and First United Methodist Church in Decorah. Still, Bauhs is quick to point out he is just one in the large (and growing) community of skilled artisans this area boasts. “There’s an amazing artisan presence here,” he says, citing Chris Wasta of Wild Rose Timberworks as having a particularly strong influence on his work. “I can’t imagine working with better people – I’m always learning from them.”

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And they, no doubt, from him. Watching Bauhs don his protective gear, pull out his miter saw, and start to work on a walnut table –  he likes most local wood species, but walnut is his favorite –  it’s clear he’s carved out a place for himself in the Driftless Region – and it’s exactly where he was meant to be, doing exactly what he was meant to do.

“I always try to strike a balance between functional needs and appearance,” he says, pausing thoughtfully. “I tend to think a lot of what I do is sculpture with a purpose.”

For more information on Paul Bauhs Woodworking, visit www.paulbauhs.com.
Bauhs’ artist studio is one of the many great stops on the Northeast Iowa Artists’ Studio Tour.

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Sara Friedl-Putnam admits to getting a bit lost on her way to interview Paul Bauhs but fully enjoyed the off-the-beaten path adventure nonetheless.