Nettle Creek area clubs honored a family tradition of community involvement for the third time with this year’s Good Friend and Neighbor award.

Kent and Shellie Gray received the award Oct. 19 during the Rural-Urban Dinner. The Economy Lions Club, Nettle Creek Lions Club and Optimist Club organized the annual event, which began in 1959 as a partnership between the Hagerstown Young Farmers and Hagerstown Rotary Club.

Kent Gray is a history teacher and coach at Hagerstown Jr.-Sr. High School. Shellie Gray is president of the Tiger Boosters, a volunteer organization that provides support and funds for the school’s athletic programs.

Their fathers, Kenny Gray and the late Raymond Sharp, started the Tiger Boosters more than 40 years ago. Both received the Good Friend and Neighbor.

In introducing Kent and Shellie to a crowd of about 120 people at Willie and Red’s, Mary Ellen and J.B. Cain dropped hints of their identify by reading a poem written by Mary Ellen. The Cains, the honor’s 2022 recipients, noted that both Grays are HHS grads. Both were active in HHS athletics. 

He went on to Ball State University, then came to teach English and history in 1987 at HHS. He has coached boys track ever since, and expanded to girls track seven years ago. He has coached the cross country teams for 17 years and was on the football coaching staff 22 years. 

Married to Kent 38 years, she runs The Logo Shoppe, where she has worked 21 years. Together, they raised a family of three: Brooke Ullery, Erin Hart and Paige Gray. 

Good Friend and Neighbor celebrates quiet goodness. Mary Ellen Cain’s poem mentioned what the Grays seldom talk about: their support for many young people.

Shellie says a lot of her work has been in support of Kent’s coaching. Kent says most of his work with kids comes through coaching and teaching, saying Shellie is far more deeply involved in the community.

As a teacher, Kent is in position to know a lot about his students. When he sees a need, she helps him provide. The couple have made sure students have cleats, sweat shirts and sweat pants, and other gear. Sometimes they provide a meal.

Kent’s summertime work is cutting shrubs. He often partners with a student and splits the money with the student at the end of summer.

Shellie, Kent and the Tiger Boosters run the annual Tiger Boosters Invitational, a monster track event held at Hagerstown every spring. It involves scores of volunteers, Shellie said, and it provides funding for letter awards for HHS athletes, and other Booster programs.

As a business manager, she is involved with Heart of Hagerstown. Through HOH, she helped provide support when Hagerstown Little League went to the Little League World Series in 2022, including putting banners on the roads and helping organize community celebrations.

Both seemed stunned when they came forward to receive the Good Friend and Neighbor plaque. Shellie, who made the plaque at her business, said she’d been given a false name to put on it.

Perhaps the last lines of Mary Ellen Cain’s poem summed it best:

“In life’s tapestry, with no expectations of fame.

“Hand in hand, they epitomize friendship’s art,

“Bestowing the ‘Good Friend and Neighbor’ award, is a noble start.”

Correction: Hagerstown Young Farmers partnered with Hagerstown Rotary Club in starting the Rural-Urban Dinner. The name of the Young Farmers group was incorrect in an Oct. 4 article in Western Wayne News.

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A version of this article appeared in the October 25 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Bob Hansen is a reporter for the Western Wayne News.