Hagerstown group needs men to mentor kids

March 15, 1997


Staff Writer

BOONSBORO - About 50 children spent an hour Saturday afternoon searching the grounds of San Mar Children's Home for pink, blue, green and yellow plastic eggs.

But about a dozen of those children continue to seek a greater prize - a mentor to hang out with and to look to for guidance.

Some boys have waited for years, said Meg Nestor, a case work supervisor for Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Washington County.

"We have over 30 boys on our waiting list right now compared to four girls," Nestor said. "Nationwide there is a need for male volunteers."


Time is running out for some youngsters. Children cannot remain on the waiting list beyond age 13, she said.

The typical wait for a big sister is two months, but the wait for a big brother averages about three years, Nestor said.

The big brother relationship can be extremely rewarding, said Douglas Fiery, the agency's board president.

Fiery, 34, has volunteered as a big brother for 14 years, mentoring to two different boys.

"I think you can have a really strong influence on these children to guide them through some tough times, especially dealing with peer pressure," he said.

All the children matched with mentors through the Big Brothers-Big Sisters program come from single-parent households.

Fiery said he keeps in touch with Jack Winters, 18, who has been Fiery's "little brother" for nine years. Fiery's first little brother moved out of state, he said.

"We're hoping that these are going to be lifelong friendships," Nestor said.

"It's all about spending quality time together," she said.

The big brother might spend time helping the child with homework. Or the two might go fishing, play basketball, cook a meal or watch a movie together.

Ashley Keeney, 12, now has someone to share her love of sports with, said Ashley's mother, Sherry Keeney, of Clear Spring.

A few years ago, Sherry Keeney was in a wheelchair due to a bone infection in her foot. She found it difficult to join her daughter in sports.

Keeney's younger daughter Allison, 8, will meet her big sister on Monday after about 18 months of waiting, she said.

Allison is excited about spending time with the woman, who shares Allison's love of animals.

"I am just very grateful that there's someone else that wants to invest time and energy and love with my children," said Keeney.

Besides big brothers and big sisters, the agency also accepts married couples who join forces to mentor a child, either a boy or girl, Nestor said.

Volunteers should be at least 18 years old and have a full-time job or be a full-time student, Nestor said. Applicants must go through a screening process.

People interested in volunteering should call Big Brothers-Big Sisters at 739-4711 or go to the agency's 16 W. Franklin St. office for more information.

Saturday's egg hunt - which included lots of free candy - was sponsored by the Washington County Chapter of ABATE, a politically active association of motorcycle riders and enthusiasts.

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