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Whalen receives award honoring dedication to foster parenting

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By Kate Darnell

When the Lexington-Bluegrass Association of Realtors presented the 2008 Good Neighbor Award, Gerry Whalen said she was surprised to learn she was the recipient.

“I’m not one to talk,” Gerry said about her acceptance speech.

While Gerry said the award was an honor, she said she couldn’t have done any of it without the support of her husband John.

“John’s been right in there with me,” she said Tuesday afternoon. “He’s been a big support.”

Together, John and Gerry have parented over 50 foster children since 1978.

And with six children of their own, Gerry said their family picture is pretty big.

“At the ballpark or something, if somebody hollers ‘Mom,’ I answer,” she said.

Gerry said her family had and continues to welcome foster children of all ages, races, religions and cultures.

An experienced foster parent, Gerry now works with several organizations to find and assist new foster parents.

Through the University of Kentucky, Gerry trains support groups in Richmond, Georgetown and Lexington, providing monthly education to foster parents, foster children and childcare workers.

Gerry also serves as a mentor for new foster parents for the first six months after the parents have obtained a foster child.

Part of a network through Murray State University and Eastern Kentucky University, Gerry is trained to provide assistance to foster families during emergencies.

A realtor at Whalen & Company for 30 years, Gerry said it was her job that allowed her the flexibility to be a foster parent.

“I’m really lucky to have this employment,” she said. “Everyone in the office has been supportive of this for 31 years.”

And when things get hectic or busy, Gerry said all she had to do was think about her children.

“The kids are so special and so great,” she said. “It just gives you a push.”

The Good Neighbor Award is a humanitarian award presented at the Lexington-Bluegrass Association of Realtors’ annual dinner. The event was held Jan. 16 at Keeneland in Lexington.