Good Neighbor Sharon Friend: Guardian Angel for Children
Ask those who know her, and they’ll tell you Sharon Friend more than lives up to her name. Over the past 11 years, Friend has devoted thousands of hours to The Children’s Service Guild, a Las Vegas nonprofit dedicated to assisting children touched by the family court system.
November 1, 2006
As president of the guild for the past six years, Friend has been instrumental in raising $1.8 million to benefit abused, neglected, and troubled children in one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolitan areas. She also oversees volunteer programs and steps in to help meet unusual needs.
“If you care about children, you do what needs to be done to help them,” says Friend, a broker with Las Vegas Realty. “A baby didn’t ask to be born addicted to crack. A 5-year-old didn’t deserve to be set on fire.”
People who’ve seen Friend in action say she’s a marvel of energy and effectiveness. “Whenever a child or family has a special need, we call Sharon,” says Cherlyn Townsend, director of the Clark County Department of Juvenile Justice Services, just one of the dozens of agencies supported by the guild.
In one instance, Friend found a way to fill an urgent request for a special hospital-style bed and motorized wheelchair for a quadriplegic child. The child had just been admitted to Child Haven, an education center for more than 5,000 children a year under the protective custody of the Clark County, Nev., court system.
“If we’d waited for Medicaid or for some other government assistance, the child would have done without for weeks or even months. Sharon got it done in days,” says Lou Palma, manager of shelter services for the Clark County Department of Family Services. “I’m totally impressed with her commitment to children placed in protective custody.”
In addition to Child Haven, The Children’s Service Guild sponsors Spring Mountain Youth Camp, a correctional facility for boys who’ve had minor run-ins with the law. The 100-bed camp provides academics, athletics, and counseling to more than 230 young men a year.
Friend credits her 28 years as a real estate professional with honing the skills that enable The Children’s Service Guild to respond so efficiently to a wide range of requests.
“As a real estate professional, I learned how to manage my time, which is what it takes to be successful, whether you’re closing a real estate transaction or trying to schedule medical care for a sick child,” says Friend.
Since Friend sells real estate full time, volunteers an average of 35 hours a week, and also finds time to remain close to her three children and six grandchildren, she has clearly mastered multitasking. She says spending time with her own grandchildren gives her insights on how to communicate with the youngsters helped by the guild.
“Once you discover how needy these children are, you just can’t say no to them,” she says. “We received a note from one 13-year-old who’d had abscesses in his mouth. He wrote, ‘Thank you. I didn’t know my mouth didn’t have to hurt.’ He had never been to a dentist.”
No project affecting a child’s well-being is too big or too small for Friend’s attention. Says Adrienne Cox, a former division manager of Child Haven, “Sharon and the guild assumed a leadership role in raising millions for the construction of a new school and two new cottages and for the renovation of cottages that were badly in need of repair. At the same time, Sharon will find a prom dress for a foster child. Children who lack caring and safe homes have a good friend and a good neighbor in Sharon.”
Friend brushes off such tributes, saying she’s not looking for accolades. “A child’s smile is the only reward I need,” she says.