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'Older brother' enlists volunteers

August 12, 2005|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

HAGERSTOWN

tiffanya@herald-mail.com

Volunteer coordinator Eddie Younger enjoys the challenge of coaxing children to do something for nothing.

Part of his job is showing children at the Boys & Girls Club of Washington County that community service makes a difference. The other part was never outlined in his job description, but he said it's what keeps him coming back.

"A lot of these kids lack male figures in the home," said Younger, 22, of Hagerstown. "I think a lot of the kids who come here come so they can have a male figure in their lives. I'm here because they want and expect me to be here."

Most of the nearly 150 children who attend the Boys & Girls Club on Pennsylvania Avenue daily come from single-parent homes that lack male mentors, Younger said.

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The same is true for other Boys & Girls Club units in Washington County, said Buck Browning, director of operations.

At Noland Village, nearly 80 percent of the 250 public housing units served by the Noland Village Boys & Girls Club were occupied by families run by single mothers, Browning said.

"He's like an older brother for them," co-worker Mandy Hornbecker said. "They look up to him and see they can do the things he's doing. He lives in this neighborhood, he's been to school. He's a good role model."

Younger said he wants to teach children the importance of giving back to the community.

"I just let them know that everything they do, you don't need to be rewarded for it," he said. "Just do it because you want to do it or because you want to help."

During the last school year, Younger convinced 20 club youths to volunteer at the Humane Society of Washington County. It took some heavy prodding.

"No one wanted to go," Younger said. "They were all like, 'No one wants to clean up dog poop.'"

But once they got there and learned how to bathe the animals and walk dogs, Younger said, "they saw that the animals really appreciated it. It put a smile on their faces."

The club will have to extend the service project from once a week to twice a week this school year because so many children want to volunteer there, he said.

Browning has worked with Younger since he was a teenage member.

"It's funny because he was kind of quiet," Browning said.

Younger initiated several club programs and gives presentations to the public, Browning said.

"He represents the club very well," Browning said.

Drawing on experience


Younger said his motivation to inspire young people comes from his own experiences at the Boys & Girls Club. He started attending when he was 10.

"I think I've been here so long that I keep wanting to go back," he said. "It's helped me so that I wouldn't end up on the streets."

Younger said he never lacked a male role model and grew up in a good home. He went because there wasn't anything to do in his neighborhood, he said.

At first he liked to "hang and chill" there, but after a while he became more interested in volunteering.

He was named "Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year" in 2002 and was offered a job when he was 16. He has spearheaded several volunteer projects at the club, often recruiting his peers to participate.

"It makes me feel good helping others," Younger said.

He said the best part about the job is seeing that he's made a difference in a child's life.

"It's weird to see them grow," he said. "It feels like I'm getting old, even though I'm only 22."

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