Strand Notebook | Volunteers recognized for serving as role models, support for Horry children

Jodi Finocchio (right) and Tahlia Vereen.
Jodi Finocchio (right) and Tahlia Vereen. Submitted photo

Jodi Finocchio of Conway and Doug Morehouse of Georgetown each received a Julius Derrick Mentor of the Year award from the Children’s Mentoring Program of Horry County on July 30.

The award is given to those in the program who show devotion to the children they work with. Finocchio and Morehouse met the children they work with about a year ago.

The program matches volunteer adult role models with children living in single-parent homes or with other family members. The awards were presented during its annual fundraiser at the Waccamaw Shrine Club in Conway.

Tahlia Vereen, 8, is thrilled to have Finocchino in her life.

“She’s like a real-life sister. She’s nice, and she makes me laugh, and when I cry, she always cheers me up. I love her a lot,” Tahlia said.

“She’s a part of my family,” Finocchio said of Tahlia. “We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve shared attitudes with each other.”

They’ve also had a lot of fun together, they said.

Finocchio, a New York native, teaches special education at Waccamaw Elementary School and works at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville during the summers.

“Jodi has been a big inspiration for our family,” said Tahlia’s mother, Samila Vereen, who knows the value of the mentoring program because she was in it as a young girl. “It gave me a different outlook on life,” she said. “It’s very important. It was the big outcome of my life, so I knew she would enjoy it.”

The first time Morehouse met Jonathon Campbell, 12, of Murrells Inlet, Jonathon wasn’t feeling well and was very quiet, but that changed on the second meeting, Morehouse said.

“The next time we got together, he took off, and we’ve been going ever since,” said Morehouse, who grew up in Florence, the youngest of six brothers.

“He’s a great man,” Jonathon said. “He’s responsible and he knows what he’s doing. I can’t really say all he means to me.”

Together, they have been to football games, local attractions and other places.

“I think Jonathon has enjoyed his many days at my office where he is has been one of the guys,” said Morehouse, who owns Johnstone Supply in Murrells Inlet.

Jonathon’s mother, Karissa Koivisto, said that as a single mother, she is very particular about the people she brings around her child. She placed Jonathon in the program because she felt that was a safe way for him to meet people and to have a positive, strong role model that is not just family – and that is what Morehouse has been.

The 2015 mentoring awards were named for Julius Derrick, who, along with his wife, Polly, directed the program since it began in 1989. He died in January. Polly, a small staff, a countywide volunteer board and other volunteers, including members of the Derrick family, are keeping the program strong.

For more information or to volunteer to mentor a child, call 248-0164.

Contact PEGGY MISHOE at or 365-3885.