Know When to Fold Them

Accepting the Award

“Know when to fold them…”

In his classic song, The Gambler, Kenny Rogers sang “You have to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” It is a great song and applicable to many situations… including the one I am writing about today.

As longtime readers of my blog will know, I never intended to be connected to the life of cadets of The Citadel after my son graduated in 2011. I passed along the leadership roles I held as the Georgia Citadel Parent Rep, and the Area Rep Coordinator for the Citadel Family Association before he graduated. What I did not anticipate were the many new parents who found my previous blog posts for the military blog site, Off the Base, who would then send emails and even call me to ask for advice. I certainly never expected to be connected to the school seven years after “my” graduation day.

I tell people I am basically lazy. After getting a few emails and calls post-graduation, I decided that since most of the early questions from parents are the same, it would be easier and less time consuming to just post the tips and information to my own blog. It then became apparent that a more interactive platform was needed for parents to ask questions and get answers, so I started that with the parents of the Class of 2016.

While my son was a cadet, I was a company rep volunteer and then area rep for the Citadel Family Association. During that time, Facebook groups were developed. In the early years those groups were helpful, but, unfortunately, also a source for rumors, bullying, and misinformation perpetrated by individuals who sadly harbored personal agendas.

Keeping in mind the harmful and insensitive interactions I saw happening in the groups that included parents of cadets of all classes, and knowing some basics in counseling and pastoral care, I developed the first parent group by class in 2012. The idea was simple, start a group for parents of students in the class of 2016 only and add a few of my trusted friends who were parents of recent graduates to offer guidance, support and advice.

The first year the group grew to over 350 members. It was a learning process. Not everyone was on board with the concept of straight information. Drama and/or rumors became a need for many. As the years progressed, rules and guidelines developed. Advice was tweaked and I built relationships with key staff on campus to ensure the information shared was accurate and current. Each year when the new packing list was published in the “Success Packet” I’d review it to make sure the new parents stayed with the school sanctioned list and not be conflicted by random advice given by parents of previous cadets. Today there are parent groups for the classes of 2016 to the current knob Class of 2022.

In 2014 my alma mater, Columbia Theological Seminary, gave me the “Pioneer in Ministry Award” for my ongoing work with cadet parents. I wrote about what I considered my unique call to serve in a blog post you can read HERE. From June 2014-2015 I was a chaplain resident at the Atlanta VA Medical Center. It was a rewarding and educational year. While I was extremely busy with my work there I was still maintaining the support groups for new parents. I also tried to let staff at The Citadel know there was a real need for the school to be more involved with proactive communication with parents. The Citadel Family Association is only for parents of current cadets and there was no place in the CFA for parents of graduates. I met with staff in The Citadel Foundation Office, then later met with the new provost at the time, Dr. Connie Book. A couple of years ago, Dr. Book brought Navy Capt. Taylor Skardon over to the Provost office where he became the parent liaison among other duties.

Each year in the parent groups leading up to matriculation day I offered a dinner invitation for first year parents who might want to get together in a casual environment after a stressful drop off matriculation morning.. We usually had a group of 40-50 meet at Tommy Condon’s restaurant. The summer the Class of 2020 was matriculating the numbers outgrew Condon’s. With the help of The Citadel Club of Charleston and The Citadel Foundation, we held a BBQ dinner at the Holliday Alumni Center. It was successful, over 230 people attended. After I planned this first dinner at the HAC, Capt. Skardon assumed the matriculation night dinner planning for the next two years.

I wrote Capt Skardon in the fall of 2016. I had authored a white paper on how and why the parent groups by class were formed. I explained why the groups have the rules they do and why only parents of graduates are in the group as advisors. Since Capt. Skardon was the new parent liaison, I offered to pass the groups along to him. He called a meeting with the staff liaison to the CFA and the CFA leadership. I attended the meeting fully expecting I would relinquish my leadership role of the groups. I was surprised when Capt. Skardon asked me to continue my volunteer work because the current staff did not have the required time. After that meeting, we developed a system of communication between the communication chair of the CFA, Capt. Skardon and me to disseminate accurate information to parents.

Here we are almost two years after that meeting. The groups have grown in size each year. There are over 980 members in the group for 2022 parents. There are more than 3,250 members in the four groups for current parents. The work is rewarding. Many wonderful connections and friendships have been made. The groups are so active that they caught the eye of the corporate office of Facebook in California. I was invited to attend the first ever 2017 Facebook Communities Summit in Chicago as one of 100 group admins who created successful Facebook groups and are building communities.

The goal of the groups has always been to provide a safe place for anxious parents to get accurate information. The groups are most active knob year. The activity picks up again second semester junior year leading up to senior year and ring weekend and graduation. To help with the volume of information that is shared, parents from within each group were added to help administer and moderate the groups. A private group was formed for the moderators. I continued to stay in close contact with Capt. Skardon to help provide accurate timely information to parents. I did tell Capt. Skardon that management of the groups had outdistanced my volunteer capacity and I’d either have to receive small monetary compensation or I’d have to move on.

Subsequently, a decision has been made for the school, through the Citadel Family Association volunteers, to begin moderating groups for the incoming parents of the class of 2023. I am the creator of the current groups and have promised that no staff would be added to them. I will continue to be a member in the groups I created, and the parent volunteers will take over the day-to-day administration of them. A staff person or two will be added to the private group for administrators so information can be shared from staff to the admin group then shared with parents in the 2019 – 2022 parent groups. Beginning with the class of 2023, the parent group will be maintained by the Citadel Family Association and their volunteers.

I like to think the groups have served the original purpose, to provide a safe space for new parents to find support and information. I look forward to following the cadet careers of the young men and women I’ve had the honor getting to know, some of whom have become my “adopted” sons and daughters. I’ll still be in the groups I started but as a silent member there to support the parent administrators and facilitate introductions between admins and staff.

So as the song goes, I’ll be walking away (but watching from a distance).

Go Bulldogs!

 

 

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7 Responses

  1. God bless you Dorie. You’ve certainly gone way above the call when it comes to The Citadel and it’s time for someone else to take it over. Most likely they’ll discover real soon that the “small monetary” payment would have been well worth it! Now stick to your guns and watch silently (I know that will be hard for you). lol

    Wishing you the best.

    Best Regards,

    Denise Martin

    Realtor, Accredited Home Stager

    Virtual Properties Realty

    770-883-8784

    denisegmartin@comcast.net

    http://www.DeniseMartinRealty.com

    The Realtor You Can Count On…

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    Please Exercise Caution: Wire fraud, email hacking and phishing attacks are on the rise! Email is neither secure nor confidential. If you receive an email from anyone concerning any transaction involving Virtual Properties Realty requesting you to wire funds anywhere or asking you to provide nonpublic personal information (such as credit or debit card numbers, or bank account or bank routing numbers) by unsecured return email, NEVER respond to the message even if it appears to be sent by our company. Instead, immediately call your real estate agent. ALWAYS confirm wire transfer instructions by phone to a known number before sending any funds.

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  2. Dorie, thank you for your diligence and loyalty to the families of cadets. Your knowledge was a godsend when my son was a cadet. Your friendship will always be a blessing. Best of luck to you! Hope to see you soon!

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  3. Dorie,

    I know it will be hard for you to step back from something you have put so much time and energy into for so many years. I can’t thank you enough for the attention and concern that you put into every question that was asked (even the ones that were asked over and over and over). You provided terrific insight for me as my son entered the Citadel Class of 2022. Your compassion as he left the school and your guidance in that process was also abundantly helpful. I can’t imagine that there will be any one or any group of people who will do the job with the love and compassion you have shown. Best of luck as you free up countless hours to do something else amazing with your life.

    Wishing you all the best! m

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  4. Dorie, You have done such wonderful job. Here in Paris with Devlen as he studies abroad in Greece. Blessings to you on your journey God has amazing plan for you. Warm regards Francie Bridges 

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

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  5. There is a time when each volunteer must say goodbye to allow others an opportunity. Take it from me, it will be a huge weight lifted. Put that stuff in the rear-view mirror, and enjoy the serenity.

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  6. Dorie, Thank you so much for the time you have dedicated to helping and guiding us through many challenges as parents of a cadet. My son was and still is a man who doesn’t share much with me and likes to face his challenges without my advice. I am proud of that trait but it was hard during the Citadel years. Your words of advice and wisdom helped ease my worries all four years. He is now in the United States Air Force using his degree in Computer Science working in Cyber Security to help keep our country safe. Thank you for your part in his success. God Bless you, Dorie.

    Respectfully,
    Cindy Newton Lima 2017

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  7. Dorie, you were invaluable to our family during our son’s years at El Cid, and to countless newbie parents. As we say to our military, I say to you, “Thank you for your service.” Susan Flanigan

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