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'Bigs' say they are the lucky ones

January 04, 2009|By JANET HEIM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- To hear the three recipients of the Big Brothers Big Sisters awards for 2008, they are the lucky ones. Their matches with their "littles," whether through the community- or school-based mentoring program, are perfect fits.

No need for awards -- their reward is the relationships they have with the youths they mentor.

"I hit the jackpot with my little brother. We are like peas in a pod," said Frank Nuice, Big Brother of the Year.

Nuice, 48, of Boonsboro, got involved with the program about four years ago after all but one of his five children moved out on their own. He and wife wondered how they would fill the void.

Being a Big Brother came to mind, so Nuice applied for the program and was given a choice of two youths. He chose the one who had common interests and has been thrilled with the results.

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"I thought we were just having a good time," said Nuice, a traffic signal technician for the City of Hagerstown. "You don't realize the impact you're making. It's easy. When I have a Saturday I want to go hiking, who do I call? I call Kadeem."

Nuice said Kadeem, who is being raised by his grandparents, is like one of the family.

"I can't imagine Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas Day without him," Nuice said.

He enjoys introducing him to things he's never done before, like going to the ocean. Nuice also appreciates that Kadeem trusts him enough to ask advice occasionally.

"It's a chance to make an impact in somebody's life," Nuice said.

This year's Big Sister of the Year, Naomi Doucette, got involved with BBBS about 10 years ago after seeing a billboard near the old County Market.

"I wanted to do some volunteer work but didn't know what to get into," said Doucette, 53, who lives in Hagerstown.

A credit analyst at Citicorp, Doucette said she spends about three to four hours a week with her little sister. As her "little" has gotten older, though, her busy high school schedule makes it harder to schedule time together, which is also a problem for Nuice and Kadeem.

Sadie is Doucette's fourth little sister. She said she still hears from her first little sister.

Doucette, who does not have children, said she stresses education more than anything, and that fun comes after all the schoolwork is done. Doucette is proud of her third little sister, who is going to go to Penn State.

"I learn as much from them," Doucette said.

Joe Dill has been involved with BBBS since 1972, even when his four children were young.

"All my kids were raised with a 'little brother.' They know the value of what they have," Dill said.

He has had five home-based little brothers and switched to the school-based mentoring program six years ago. He has mentored three youth in that program.

"Basically, my faith tells me to give away my time, talent and treasures. To me, I'm giving back what I was given," said Dill, 64, of Halfway.

He remembers each youth and said he was thrilled to run into one of his first little brothers 20 years later. The community-based program is for youth up to age 18.

As a school-based mentor, Dill spends 50 minutes a week with his "little," Caleb, at his school, Bester Elementary. Dill said he's also getting to know other students at the school and makes a point of talking to them or complimenting them, adding to his impact with the program.

"It's just been a great experience for me. I just enjoy this boy so much," Dill said.

He will continue mentoring Caleb at school, and hopes to become a part-time community-based mentor, so he and Caleb can spend time together outside school.

Dill is this year's School-based Mentor of the Year. In addition to his impact on youth, Dill also does the maintenance at the office, mows the grass and helps out as needed.

A strong advocate for BBBS, Dill is hoping to recruit new mentors, either school- or community-based.

"All these people walking in City Park at lunchtime -- they could just walk down to Bester," Dill said.

For more information about volunteering with the program, call the Big Brothers Big Sisters office at 301-739-4711.

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