Deborah Dalton - From Volunteer to Leading a Youth-Based Nonprofit to New Success

My Big Story

How one woman grew her story as she successfully evolved a nonprofit for at-risk youth


Listen on Apple Podcasts


Also available on these channels (and all major platforms):

OvercastStitcher | Google Play Music | SoundCloud











Before I get into the show, just a quick reminder about our name change. If you’ve been a listener of Living Your Journey, and haven’t heard yet, we changed our name. This show is now called My Big Story with Christopher Swan. It’s all the same great content, with shiny new packaging and a clearer focus.

This is the weekly show where I talk with amazing people, that are living a life of intention, creating a life they love, and where we can learn from their stories.

Today’s guest is Deborah Dalton, the Executive Director of Mentor Me, a nonprofit that empowers youth in need, by matching them with an adult mentor. Think of it as helping kids achieve more and keeping them from falling through the cracks, which can be the beginning of a troubled future.

My conversation with Deborah is a mix of personal and professional growth, along with a look into Mentor Me’s story. Mixing the two makes sense, as both stories are deeply intertwined.

We talk about the role of Mentor Me in the community, how it works, why it matters, and its future growth. As Deborah shares her own story, it’s almost like going behind-the-scenes of leading a nonprofit, from starting at Mentor Me as a volunteer, to learning her way into the leadership role, and to acknowledging her purpose along the journey. I found it so refreshing to hear Deborah share an important truth – she doesn’t have all of the answers. And that’s true for all of us.


Key Takeaways

[2:16] Mentor Me is community-based mentoring organization, but different than the one’s many of us are familiar with.
[4:14] Mentor Me provides a caring, nurturing adult to children who need one in their lives.
[7:02] Mentoring can change a child’s perspective of adults, school and their future.
[8:58] How deep community connections make it possible to reach more children, in specific ways.
[12:16] Deborah shares her story of getting started as a mentor – the beginning of her Mentor Me journey.
[14:11] Healing has been a theme of Deborah’s efforts with Mentor Me.
[15:28] Deborah talks about going back to work from being a stay-at-home mom – and why it mattered – to find a deeper fulfillment.
[20:03] Deborah talks about using her talents and skills to develop The Center (at the Cavanagh Recreation Center), and the reason saying “yes” to things made all the difference.
[22:41] What’s the secret sauce is to sticking with someone or something?
[25:10] Realizing when it was time to push the reset button on Mentor Me – a lesson for other nonprofits.
[29:27] The magic formula Deborah used to recreate herself and the organization.
[34:22] A big aha – Deborah realized how the paths of her career and life have aligned.
[35:37] Mentor Me is expanding its approach to help youth that need even more assistance, and by helping other communities start their own programs.
[41:23] A behind-the-scenes example of how this nonprofit utilizes a “warm hand off” of a youth within their community for holistic care.
[44:15] The Petaluma community has taken taken a collective responsibility with the the youth.
[44:23] An experience of personal growth, along with growing Mentor Me.
[49:35] This is how Deborah actively working to keep a balance in her life.
[56:44] How permission to do things can get in your way. Deborah shares her realization, that she falsely needed permission to do things she enjoyed. She explains how she overcame it, and how that helped.
[59:30] Where to find more about Deborah and Mentor Me, and ways to get involved locally and globally.
[1:01:08] What did you think? Any new ideas or questions? Call us at 1-707-347-9312 to share ideas, stories and feedback. Also, we have even more content, stories and ideas at Here’s how to connect and find out more.


Mentioned in This Episode

@mechristopher on Instagram
@mechristopher on Twitter
@accidentalinformation on Instagram
Accidental Information on Facebook
@accidentalinfo on Twitter
@WeAreMentorMe on Facebook
@WeAreMentorMe on Twitter
@wearementorme on Instagram



“Where I feel like I’ve been able to make the biggest impact is when I go first.”

“The leader of an organization sets the tone and the culture and the belief system, as sometimes you are the compass point.”

“Get out of other people’s relationships, manage your own energy — you are not actually helping.”



Mentoring Moments (Revealed at the 2017 Mad Hatter Ball)