Brownstown man receives award from Big Brothers Big Sisters


When a Brownstown man made the decision to volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters nearly eight years ago, he had no idea he would be making such a difference in young lives and receiving an award for it one day.

That day came in December for 79-year-old Big Brother George Burge when he was recognized as Volunteer of the Year from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Indiana. His Little Brother is Noah Sarver of Brownstown.

Kendra Harris, program director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Indiana, said choosing Burge for the award was an easy decision.

“George has been volunteering about eight years now, and spring of last year we found out he was sick and had been diagnosed with prostate cancer,” Harris said. “He told us at the end of the school year, and they had a treatment plan for him, and the prognosis was good.”

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In the fall, Harris said she and Burge were talking on the phone and he told her not to worry because he had scheduled his treatments for 2 p.m. Tuesdays when it was least likely to interfere with his lunches with Noah.

“I could’ve totally understood if he’d said he didn’t have time to volunteer then because he was sick and needed to take care of himself,” Harris said. “But there, he said he’d scheduled his treatments so that he could be there for Noah every week. You can always count on him and depend on him.”

Burge said his visits with Noah also helped to get his mind off of the treatments he was receiving, and he almost didn’t go to the holiday party in December because Noah couldn’t be there that night.

“Noah missed the dinner because he was working toward getting his band jacket, and he started out in sixth grade band and stayed all the way through,” said Terry Fish, Noah’s grandmother and guardian. “Then when he got to high school, he didn’t miss a single performance and still hasn’t except for when he was away on a mission trip to Mexico, so they count all those points to be able to get the jacket.”

Harris said Noah didn’t know Burge was going to be honored that night, so it wasn’t like he chose one over the other.

“The first conversation I had with Noah this school year and the first words out of his mouth were ‘How’s George?'” Harris said. “That’s the first thing he wanted to know.”

Harris said Burge and his wife, Nancy Burge, had decided they weren’t going to attend the holiday dinner, which is where they recognize the volunteers.

“I had to break down and tell him we were honoring him as Big Brothers Big Sisters Volunteer of the Year,” Harris said. “I told him it would be a huge favor to me if he was there.”

A Jackson County native, George grew up in Vallonia and graduated from high school in 1956. His wife was born and raised in Indianapolis. The couple met when they were camp counselors at Rivervale Methodist Church camp.

Nancy said they got into trouble that year at camp because they weren’t supposed to be holding hands.

After attending Purdue University for a year, George entered the military. Afterwards, he came back and finished up his degree at Tri-State College in Angola. He and Nancy prepared to move several times.

George said he was an electrical engineer and went wherever the work was. He and his family have lived in New York, Illinois, Ohio and then Michigan for 18 years.

“Then we moved back to Indiana and built our current house in Brownstown,” Nancy said. “All of our kids and the grandchildren decided they wanted to stay in Ohio, so they live in Franklin, Ohio.”

George has been a Big Brother since September of 2010, and he has been with Noah for about six years. He became involved with the organization when Harris spoke at a Brownstown Exchange Club meeting and expressed a need for volunteers.

Harris said they had two people sign up: George Burge and Brad Thompson, who was a youth pastor at the Nazarene church at the time. Thompson was there for a year or so and then got reassigned elsewhere.

“Noah and I got paired when he was in the seventh grade, and before that, I had two other Little Brothers,” George said. “I told them at the time I got into this, ‘I’m going to be old enough to be a great-grandfather to these kids,’ and they said that would work.”

Fish tried to see about getting Noah’s sisters matched, too, but there just weren’t enough volunteers. Noah has twin sisters who both attend Brownstown Central High School with him, and all three live with Fish.

Noah has an older brother who is already out of school and on his own and a little sister who is almost 3 and lives with their mother.

“At first, I was just a seventh-grader, and I was really shy and would never talk when he came for lunch on Tuesdays and just really quiet,” Noah said. “Then when I got to the high school, it helped with social interaction and being able to talk to people, and it reminds me of the book we read in middle school, ‘Tuesdays with Morrie.'”

George and Noah are in the Lunch Buddies program, which is a site-based program where the Bigs and Littles meet during the student’s lunch period at his or her school.

They approached Noah at school for a program called Lunch Buddies, which is really what they are, and they meet once a week for lunch,” Fish said. “They called to ask me if he could participate, and I said I thought it would be great.”

Harris said they had approached Brownstown Central Middle School and let them know they had a mentor available. The counselor, Alicia McCrary, got with school staff and felt Noah would be a good fit for the program.

“We specifically look for kids who would benefit from the program but who would also be pleasant to be around,” Harris said. “They felt that Noah fit that criteria, and so we sent a permission slip home, and Terry signed it.”

George said he really enjoys being a Big Brother and Noah is the only one who has stayed with it in high school. While the other kids dropped out when they went to high school, Noah has stayed on, and George appreciates that.

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For information about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Indiana, call 812-522-9699 or visit or


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