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Steve Burke was a sure bet to be a rec volunteer the moment he moved to Carroll County in 1996.

Here was a self-described basketball fanatic. And anybody who is willing to have 1,300 basketballs delivered to his home each year fits that description nicely, one would think.

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He loved coaching kids and had five children and stepchildren wanting to play.

And here he was, living in Eldersburg, the home of the county's biggest youth basketball program. Yep, the guy was a definitely a goner from the moment he moved here.

He immediately joined the Freedom Area Basketball League, where he started out by coaching all five of his kids' teams at once.

A couple of his boys were on travel teams that involved playing in more than one league, and that took even more of his time.

However, Burke has not limited himself to coaching. Over the years he has held just about every other job in that organization.

While his children are bout of rec basketball, and he no longer coaches, the 54-year-old Burke still referees games. And, he is still heavily involved in training high school youngsters to be referees, maintaining and upgrading gym facilities and whatever else comes along.

In November, the Freedom Area Rec Council Executive Board named him its Volunteer of the Year in recognition of his service. He has rendered quite a bit of that in his 23 years as a volunteer.

When Burke was coaching, he was also coordinator for one or more of FABL's age divisions. This involved setting up the teams and getting coaches, scheduling, rescheduling if there was a weather postponement, and anything else that came along involving the division and its teams.

During the basketball season, “I worked on rec stuff, 20-to-25 hours each week and maybe more,” Burke said.

He added, not surprisingly, “that really frustrated my wife.”

So, to address that problem, he got his wife Linda to volunteer too.

They coached together. She helped in practices. And when he couldn't make it, she coached the team.

He also involved the youngsters in his volunteer activities while helping them complete their public service requirement for graduation.

“I made them coordinators. I took care of dealing with the coaches while they did paperwork and other things. They could stay in the background and work behind the scenes,” Burke said.

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He was also FABL president for 10 years. And here is when he really got involved with basketball — or rather, basketballs. Each of FABL's 1,300 players gets a basketball.

So each year, Burke took delivery of five or six pallets of basketballs and stuffed them in his garage until the coaches came and got them.

While Burke eventually got out of coaching and is no longer president, he has two other jobs now.

One his training high school volunteers as basketball referees for the games played by the league's youngest divisions.

“I schedule them and then work with them at the games on weekends,” he said.

He also has another job — FABL facility representative.

His write-up for Volunteer of the Year states, “Not only [is he] the sole person to organize allocated gym time into a schedule for 10 divisions and multiple travel teams, but he has spent many hours [commuting] to the facilities, [and] finding ways to upgrade their facilities, with new backboards, rims, safety padding and other amenities.”

Burke works with seven schools where Freedom's games are played. And he is determined to make sure that all of their basketball facilities are top-notch by the time he leaves the program.

To do this, he uses the county rec department's self-help program whereby the department provides most of the funding to buy materials and the local rec council contributes a small match plus the labor.Burke then organizes the work effort.

The schools naturally appreciate having their facilities fixed or upgraded at no cost, and the kids have a safe and top-notch place to play. Burke says he will have updated the basketball facilities at all seven schools by the time he leaves his job.

Like other Volunteers of the Year, Burke said he appreciated being named, but he quickly added that he didn't volunteer to gain recognition.

“I didn't (volunteer) for the accolades,” he said. “I enjoy being around the kids and doing what I do. It was nice to get it but if I hadn't gotten it, that was nice too.”

Burke expects to retire from his job in about five to seven years. And that means leaving the rec council, too. He says he plans to split his time between Florida and someplace in Maryland near the water.

However, he will always remember Carroll County.

“It’s a fantastic area and a great place to bring up a family in,” he said. “It's been a pleasure to be involved in it and getting to know so many people through sports. I really have enjoyed being here and I'm sure going to miss it.”

And the Freedom Area Recreation Council will surly miss him.

Its citation states that, “The council would not have been able to keep FABL running successfully without Steve’s efforts throughout his entire tenure.”

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