Coupons are good for families; Frank Meyers:...


Coupons are good for families; Frank Meyers: Baltimore man 0) packages the gift of time in a book.

Frank R. Meyers couldn't put time in a bottle, but he managed to squeeze some between the covers of a book.

A year ago, Mr. Meyers concocted his first "Book of Time," a series of coupons written for a neighbor's sons. The boys traded them in for fishing trips and visits to Baltimore sites with Mr. Meyers.

Mr. Meyers wondered if the coupons might appeal to other children as well.

Through his work as a health professional, he had seen so many children who needed an adult's time more than anything else. A 12-year-old girl infected with the AIDS virus since age 10, a 9-year-old boy turning tricks to make money for video games -- those were the children he was thinking of when he put together a more generic edition of the "Book of Time."

"I read that the average parent spends eight to 14 minutes a day per child," says the 50-year-old North Baltimore man, who lives in the hills above Northern Parkway. "And six to 10 of those minutes are spent arguing."

The coupons in the second book include simple items -- a milkshake, a back rub and a hug, a trip to a museum -- and two blank pages, to be filled in by the presenter. There also is a contract for the giver to sign, promising to honor each coupon.

"If you cannot keep these promises, please do not buy or give this book," Mr. Meyers warns in a page that is to be removed before the book is presented to a child. "It would be far worse to break them than to never make them at all."

He now sells the books with the help of his sister, Darlyne Fleming, who lives in West Palm Beach, Fla. Priced at $5, the books can be found in local stores, through a home page on the World Wide Web ( or by calling (800) 359-7389, Ext. 0193. She is a Sister of Mercy who might be a little short of that quality toward the person who jimmied the trunk of her car recently and heisted her wallet and papers.

All this happened while she was in jail.

Sister Mary Neil Corcoran runs the Spanish Apostolate on South Wolfe Street in East Baltimore, a charity established 32 years ago to help Baltimore's Hispanic community. Once a week, her calling takes her to the City Detention Center, where she has been officially designated the Hispanic chaplain.

So there she was one Wednesday morning, behind the walls ministering to her flock while somebody outside, who should be on the inside, is plunderring her Toyota.

The hit wasn't apparent at first. When she came back to the car she couldn't get into the trunk. So she drove to the apostolate, tried to get somebody to open it, with no success.

She then drove to a locksmith's. No success.

Light dawned in her gray-haired head that she had been a victim of Baltimore's mean streets when she found her wallet missing from the glove compartment. So she called the police.

Two-and-a-half hours later, a policeman calls. While Sister Mary Neil is providing the particulars, an aide, Jermin Laviera, interrupts with an emergency call. It is from the treasurer's office at the Sisters of Mercy. She is told that a check-cashing establishment is reporting an attempt -- by who else but the thief? -- to cash one of the nun's missing checks from the religious order's account. The full extent of the crime is finally known.

Police efforts are redoubled.

Next day, Sister Mary Neil is asked to appear at police headquarters on Fayette Street to identify her papers and collect her ID. She goes. But she can't get past the reception desk. She has no ID.

) Such is life in the city.

Richard O'Mara

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