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South Haven Boy's & Girls Club Honoree

Written by Mike Siroky. Posted in Community News

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Published on April 13, 2011 with No Comments

by Mike Siroky

When Robin Fraley walked into the Boys & Girls Club of South Haven, she never guessed she was entering the place that would become a refuge.

In return, the club never could have imagined the impact she would have there.

Fraley is this year’s Member of the Year for South Haven’s club.

The 18-year-old from Portage High School is not one to talk herself up. But her actions have led others to do so.

“They give you an opportunity here,” she said. “They help you with problems.”

After her mom passed way, Robin moved in with her older sister, Charity Powell and her children, as well as a grandmother. She has chores to do at home and she helps out in every way possible.

Fraley has a great appreciation of her older sister taking her in of giving her a place to stay. “She is a nice, caring sister,” Fraley said.

In nominating her for this annual award, the club leaders said:

“When Robin was young, her parents got divorced after being married for 25 years. Her and her mother lived with her grandmother soon afterwards.

“Robin’s father passed away from a heart attack. She was very close to him and cherished the things they would do together whenever she visited him after he moved to Kentucky. Robin and her mother moved into a trailer home.

“Their home was situated in a rough neighborhood and very rarely Robin ventured outside, for fear of her safety.”

So, said the club leaders, she developed a work ethic.

“Robin helped out around the house while her mother, Pamela worked,” said the club leaders in her nomination. “After a year, while Robin was in eighth grade, she moved into a friend’s house because Pamela was having trouble paying bills and also became very ill.

“Robin’s mother then was admitted to a hospital and Robin moved in with her sister, Charity. Over the course of several months, Robin’s mother’s health declined further due to the doctors’ finding a brain tumor. The family did not have the best insurance plan due to it being too expensive, so the doctors did the best they could to help alleviate Pamela’s suffering.

“In March of the following year, Robin and some of her family members were in Ohio when her mother passed away.”

The loss of a second parent hit her hard.

“Robin was not informed until they arrived back,” the club leaders added. “It didn’t hit Robin until a few days later about her mother’s passing: She was without a mother and a father. She was reminded constantly of the “mother” word whenever her niece, Sabrina, would call out for her mother (Charity), Robin’s sister. Robin’s grades began to drop and she fell into a state of depression.

“Robin’s sister began to step up being there for her sister. She told Robin that she knows how hard it is for them to lose their parents at such a young age, but that continuing to live life was very important. Robin developed several friendships before her father passed away, so she still had some continued support well after her mother’s passing.

“Around the house, Robin is always helping out with doing chores for her family. She lives in a household of six people: Her grandmother, sister, two nephews, and a niece. Robin has an aptitude to clean up whenever possible. With her sister working 24-hour shifts, Robin is always keeping the house clean for her niece and nephews.

“She is always trying to set a good example for her niece, Sabrina, as Sabrina is much younger than her brothers, Matt and Jeremy.”

She had moved from Hebron in the first grade, to Valparaiso in the fifth grade and now to Portage.

For an outlet from school and home, she chose the Boys & Girls Club.

“Most of the staff here are like family,” she observed.

And she fits right in as an active family member.

She likes to volunteer at the front desk, taking on the challenge of dealing with problems or requests immediately. She has put in 744 volunteer hours in the past 12 months.

“I also like Keystone (a teen student leadership group),” she said. “We do community projects, like raking people’s yards, or shoveling snow and bell-ringing for charities.”

They also worked a coat drive for the Salvation Army.

Fraley has helped setup and serve at a soup kitchen during the holidays. The soup kitchen was open to anyone who was hungry or needed a warm place to stay, and the turnout was huge. The Keystone group was highly praised for their efforts.

They also made pillows for the elderly in area care homes and spent time with those residents, playing games, talking to them and cheering them up

Fraley has also counseled other friends when some of her peers were deciding whether to try alcohol or when a close friend realized she was suffering from depression. She reminded this friend that she had stood by Fraley when she lost her parents and emphasized she was not about to abandon her friend in a time of need.

Fraley said she has learned to “be there” when someone is in need because of the way she was taken in and helped by the South Haven Boys & Girls Club.

At Portage High School, not only has she excelled in the classroom, staying on that college track, but also has found enjoyment in the theater productions.

Besides acting in many plays, she has become a student producer and taken the lead in developing the school talent show, from booking and timing acts to ironing out presentation problems.

The overall motive in all she does has been to give back to her hometown. She is working to develop skills that will help her in college, which is her big life goal right now.

“I want to be a pediatric nurse,” she shyly admitted. “Classes are going very well.”

She is in Portage High School’s Honors Program. As with many other facets of her life, she credits the leaders at her Boys & Girls Club with helping her develop a focus on school and getting good grades.

A couple of weeks ago, staff let her know she was the choice for Member of the Year. She has been cited for her work with younger members who need a homework assist and for working in the Learning Center and Computer Lab, basically showing younger members how to figure things out.

The club leaders, who selected Fraley for the annual honor, said she goes “above and beyond” what they expect from their teen volunteers.

Her work with Teen Enterprise has been exceptional. That program gets young people ready for the workforce, teaching interview and presentation skills, all leading to a nine-week employment cycle.

It is a career-launcher.

Overall, Fraley said, “I have a motto that I believe strongly in and it is this: Don’t take family for granted because one day they might not be there.

“I put that belief into my club, because it is like my extended family and it may not be there forever.

“When I graduate high school, I might have to leave the club behind. Hopefully I can change that, for one day I would like to work for the Boys & Girls Club. I do not want the club to become a memory of a place that I just only attended. I want the club to be the place I am employed by or even continue to volunteer for after I hope to graduate from college with a degree in nursing and work as a pediatric nurse.

“That is what the club means to me.

“Being here just makes me happy,” Fraley summed up.

The Chronicle will introduce readers to the other Porter County club winners as Members of the Year in the ensuing weeks.

For more information on the Boys & Girls Club of South Haven, 723 Longrun Road, call 219-759-2565, or visit www.bgcpoco.org.

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About Mike Siroky

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All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the above excellent column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Mike Siroky is a writer and editor. He is a native of Northwest Indiana. He has worked in media from coast to coast. To contact Mike, email mikel@the chronicleNWI.com

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