When 13-year-old Sofie gets together to cook with her mentor Linda Hornsby, there’s bound to be fun on the menu, plus a little music!

“We’ll go to Publix, buy ingredients and go back to her house to prep everything,” says Sofie. “Last time, we made shrimp scampi with asparagus for dinner.”

“She enjoys the prep work,” laughs Linda. “I’ve always been a terrible cook! But observing her try different recipes inspires me.” Linda says that dancing and lots of laughter often accompany these cooking sessions. “She’s got me listening to current pop music! I can tell you who Bruno Mars is.”

Sofie and Linda are a match through the Judith & Jack Rosenberg Mentoring for Kids (M4K) Program of Ferd & Gladys Alpert Jewish Family Service. M4K is a free, non-sectarian program that provides a same-gender role model for children ages 6 to 14. The program helps fill a void in a child’s life caused by the absence or loss of a significant caregiver.

Sofie’s mom passed away when she was very young. Her father felt it was important for her to have a female role model. Linda is the perfect fit. “She’s the daughter I never had,” says Linda who has two adult sons. “I was a single parent too, I remember the challenges. Her father is wonderful—we are a great team.”

M4K requires mentors to meet with their mentees at least twice a month. For Sofie and Linda, it’s a bonus that they live near one another in Palm Beach Gardens. “We see each other almost every day,” says Linda, who often picks Sofie up from school.

Along with cooking, Linda will take Sofie to get their nails done or enjoy the occasional High Tea. Sometimes they just hang out at Linda’s. “Even if we’re not doing anything specific, just being together is nice,” says Sofie.

Linda played a significant role in helping Sofie prepare for her bat mitzvah. She helped Sofie study after school, learning what she would read for the service. “I worked with her on the invitations, decorations, and the menu, and helped her pick out her dress and accessories. She’s very much into current fashions and makeup—typical interests of a girl her age, we have fun talking about that type of stuff.”

Beyond the girl talk and fun activities, Linda encourages Sofie to volunteer and give back to the community. For example, they’ve spent time volunteering at Peggy Adams Animal Rescue and The Kind Kitchen. She also encouraged Sofie to volunteer at the local library a few hours a week, a program that earns her community credits at school. “These experiences expose her to different types of people, which is important.”

Sofie appreciates that Linda is there for her when she needs her support. “She’s caring and inspires me to be a better person.”

Likewise, the inspiration goes both ways. Linda feels that Sofie is wise beyond her years. “She’ll say things that make me stop and think,” notes Linda. “She’s very perceptive, sincere, and kind. Some of this has rubbed off on me—I find myself practicing more sensitivity and empathy in certain situations. It’s easy to forget she’s only 13. She’s very mature for her age and carries herself like an adult.”

Linda worked in the legal field for many years, and before she retired she was the managing director of the South Florida office of a large national search firm doing legal search and placement work. Following retirement, she did lots of fundraising and event planning for numerous charities but eventually scaled back for a much-needed break. Later, she felt something was missing. “I read about M4K and was immediately interested. It’s a volunteer commitment, but to me, a more meaningful way of giving back.”

“Sofie’s a very bright, extremely good-hearted and kind, inquisitive, and funny young lady,” notes Linda. “I feel blessed to have her as a part of my life.”

For more information about the Judith & Jack Rosenberg Mentoring 4 Kids Program at Alpert Jewish Family Service, please contact Program Director Jennifer DiSilvestro at 561-713-1885 or [email protected].

  • Barbara G. Sidel says:

    What a heartwarming story!! I have not seen Linda in many years, but so happy to see what she is doing and how supportive she is to a young woman that is missing an important person in her life! When We lived in the same community she was a true leader. Happy and proud she continues doing for others.

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