Towne Salute: Rita Ferry Boys & Girls Club of Annapolis
Feb 28, 2018 04:00PM
By Cate Reynolds
Rita Ferry describes herself as a former “latch-key kid.” Ferry had a house key to let her into her home after school and was without adult supervision until the time her parents would return from work. Now, as an adult, Ferry spends much of her time with children who find themselves in a similar position.
"I enjoy the things I do, I like the challenge, and I like the diversity. Volunteering adds structure to my day and I feel like I can help make a small difference.”
Over 26 percent of school-age kids are unsupervised after school and the hours between 3–6 p.m. have become peak hours for juvenile crime and experimentation with drugs and alcohol. In 1988, a group of community members decided that local children needed a safe space to go after school, so they established the Boys & Girls Clubs of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County. Ferry and her husband were there from the very beginning.
“My husband was involved in getting some of the fundraising and partnering for the building renovation,” Ferry says. “We have kind of watched it grow.”
On weekday afternoons, the Boys & Girls Club of Annapolis located at Wiley H. Bates Heritage Center fills with children of all ages. The club offers local kids, primarily those with working parents, a safe place to learn and play after school.
“It’s a place for children who would be home alone after school watching TV,” Ferry explains. “But, instead of watching TV, they’re interacting with others, learning to get along, and just getting some stimulation.”
Most afternoons, Ferry can be found surrounded by a lively group of six-, seven-, and eight-year olds, volunteering with The Boys & Girls Club’s Rooted in Reading—a program that helps promote literacy skills in young readers. Children take turns reading a page of a book and then choose the next child who will read. The books always have a positive message and the lesson finishes with an activity for the kids.
“The kids are really noisy and can be hard to quiet down, but I don’t mind one bit,” Ferry says. “I really enjoy their energy.”
The Boys & Girls Club offers a wide variety of programs and services for kids of all ages. The Club teaches leadership skills, problem-solving skills, and health and wellness tips. Participants are encouraged to be active, creative, and engage in positive behaviors.
“[The Boys & Girls Club] has wonderful goals for safety, learning, and living in a community,” Ferry says. “The Club teaches kids to care about being successful, and to be kind to others.”
It took the children a while to warmup to Ferry, but now she is welcomed with open arms. According to Ferry, helping
kids unwind after a bad day and watching them become better readers is why she loves doing what she does.
“The first time one of the children ran up to me and said ‘Ms. Rita, Ms. Rita!’” Ferry recalls. “That was one of the best moments.”
Ferry’s community work doesn’t stop at the Boys & Girls Club. Feeling slightly restless after retirement, Ferry decided to fill her free time with volunteer work. Ferry volunteers her time with Saint Andrew by the Bay’s Prayer Shaw Ministry, helping her chaplain with bible study programs at local jails, and as a test administrator for a GED program at the Jennifer Road Detention Center.
“I enjoy the things I do, I like the challenge, and I like the diversity.” Ferry remarks. “Volunteering adds structure to my day and I feel like I can help make a small difference.”
However, it’s clear that Ferry is most passionate about her work with the Boys & Girls Club. On Fridays, when she isn’t at the club, she sends cookies for the kids to have as an after-school treat.
“I’ve gotten way more from them than I’ve given,” Ferry says. “That’s what keeps me going. Just the hugs from those little kids mean everything.”
For more information on the Boys & Girls Club of Annapolis, visit Bgcaa.org
Do you have a volunteer to nominate? Email Caley Breese at cbreese@WhatsUpMag.com.