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County pair honored by Big Brothers Big Sisters

December 31, 2002|by JANET HEIM

janeth@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Life is better when there's someone to lean on in good times and bad. That's what the Big Brothers Big Sisters program is all about.

For John "Skip" Frey and Mary Shirley, recent recipients of the Big Brother and Big Sister of the Year awards, it means a long-term commitment to improving the life of a child.

Frey, 54, of Halfway, has been a Big Brother to Ricky for more than five years, while Shirley, 36, of Hagerstown, has been paired up with Holly for four years and has been involved with the program for more than 20 years.

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They were honored at the 2002 Annual Dinner Meeting held at the Four Points Sheraton on Nov. 13. It took quite an effort by family members to get them to the dinner without giving away the surprise, but they pulled it off.

"My dad had to pull strings to get me there. I have huge church commitments on Wednesday nights and I don't miss church for anything," Shirley said.

Frey works nights and it took quite a bit of convincing by his wife to get him to give up sleep to attend the dinner.

According to Casework Supervisor Crystal Davis, Frey and Shirley were honored for their longtime commitments to Ricky and Holly.

"We ask for a one-year commitment, but these two have gone above and beyond that," Davis said. It becomes more difficult as the children get older and Davis credits the influence of Shirley, as a constant female role model, for 17-year-old Holly's success in school and in her job.

Both Frey and Shirley take pride in the progress and achievements of the children they mentor. Says Frey, "Ricky needed lots of attention. I worked hard with him and he's come a long way." The two enjoy doing outdoor activities together, especially hiking and biking on the towpath and mountain trails, fishing and camping.

Frey, a driver with BFI, helped raise his four children and is now raising three grandchildren. That experience has proved helpful for his role as a Big Brother.

Shirley is proud of the fact that Holly is still in school, getting good grades and working.

"She's trying to do the right thing. Getting through high school is a big accomplishment," Shirley said. She helped Holly maintain a positive outlook on life, even when things weren't so positive at home.

Shirley looks forward to doing "girl stuff" with Holly. "It's a real treat for me - we shop together and get our hair done," she said, things she doesn't get to do with her 15-year-old son.

As youth pastor at Mt. Calvary Family Worship Center in Clear Spring, Shirley has plenty of experience nurturing and motivating children and teens. Her dad was a Big Brother and being involved with the program was "just one of those things that you did. It's always been a positive thing in my family," she said.

For Frey, it was his brother-in-law, who became a Little Brother after his father died, who encouraged him to join the program.

The goal of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program is to pair children raised by a single parent, most often the mother, with another adult. In addition to a one-year commitment, they ask that volunteers be willing to make contact with their Little Brother or Little Sister once a week. It can be a scheduled activity or outing together, or may be as simple as a phone call or e-mail when that's all the schedule permits.

"We have some volunteers who commute down to D.C. for work and they just aren't able to get together with their Little Brother or Little Sister every week," Davis said.

As the kids get older, they have less free time as well. "It's hard to schedule time with Holly now that she's working," said Shirley. "We keep in touch over the phone."

If you're interested in becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister, call 301-739-4711.

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