Carol Hardeway-Freeman has been a volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Houston for more than 34 years, working from her office in Galveston, near Ball High.
In that time, she has mentored more than 1,000 students, guiding them from childhood, through high school, the complexities of the college admissions process and beyond.
“She keeps up with them to make sure they are staying on track,” wrote Wendy Langham, who nominated Hardeway-Freeman as a Daily News Everyday Hero.
“She sees the students at Prairie View A&M and cooks for them, takes them to the store and just makes sure they are all right.”
More than 180 youth find their way to the Galveston Boys and Girls Club center during the school year, allowing parents to continue working in the afternoon knowing their children are in a safe and enriching place. The numbers are higher during the summer months.
It’s not just a day care or an after-school hangout; the club provides a character-forming experience.
Learning to cook, for instance, becomes both a useful skill and a way of imparting valuable life lessons.
It starts with building a relationship, Hardeway-Freeman said.
“You have to start with them when they are small, teaching small skills,” she said. “In the kitchen, you have to work with what you have; when we go to the table, everyone will eat, even if we have to divide a bowl of rice between us.”
Older participants learn to prepare complete meals and to deliver them, with a smile, to shut-ins or facilities for the elderly.
“They need to learn to be part of the community they live in,” Hardeway-Freeman said.
Health problems have limited Hardeway-Freeman’s office hours to two days a week, but when she is in, her door is always open. She is still a guide and mentor, modeling her precept: “You have to face what life gives and learn to draw out the good. We are blessed with opportunity.”