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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : features : verde valley community champions June 24, 2016

2/18/2010 3:39:00 PM
2010 Verde Pride Awards: Lifetime Achievement Award
Love of people driving force in Merry Shanks� life
Merry Shanks
Merry Shanks

Merry Shanks was the face and voice of the Verde Valley Fire District when the agency was swamped by with sickness and death in the Angel Valley sweat lodge incident last year.

Merry is also behind a clown disguise, in a variety of personas to help educate kids about life and safety. But, those roles are just the beginning of her long list of roles in the community.

Her grandparents homesteaded in Sedona during the 1930s, but Merry was actually born in Chicago. She was among seven siblings, a foundation combined to give her a strong work ethic and ambition.

After returning to the Arizona in 1969, Merry did the books for the family construction business while her sons were growing and she several hats of Den Mother and then soccer coach and other supporting roles. The "glue that holds together many community activities," was how one fan described her.

Even though several members of her extended family are in fire service, she never suspected she would as well. Then, 20 years ago she began looking through the classifieds and stumbled on a part-time secretary-receptionist job and began working for Fire Chief Don Eberle at the Cottonwood Fire Department. Merry credits Don Eberle as "one of the best mentors she ever had."

Jim King, Chief of Verde Rural Fire at the time, recognized her computer skills and hired her way for a full-time job.

Though Merry was anchored to a desk job, she has always been on the periphery of fire service, extending public education outreach and interaction with the community.

In the early days, she said, no one had much time for public education. "But, I said, we need to educate the kids."

Merry recently returned from a "characterization" work shop, a program to teach skills to act in character. She is a stalwart in the Life and Fire Safety Committee that presents messages to elementary school kids in all Verde Valley schools twice a year. Skits are an important teaching tool in fire prevention.

She recalls a recent incident in which a pre-schooler who was visiting a friend's warned his parents of a smoldering fire, and then insisted that the adults take action, preventing a house fire.

Merry has been involved in the Safe Sitter program to educate potential baby sitters about safety issues. She educates seniors on safety and participates in the Junior Fire Setter certified program to counsel youth to stay out of the court system.

Outside the fire house, Merry is a regular volunteer in the Verde Valley Care Givers to assist seniors with regular chores to allow them to stay in their own homes.

She is annually participates in the Arizona Children's Burn Camp each summer in Prescott, that allows kids who have been injured seriously to boost their confidence with other burn victims.

She insists that she just loves to work with other people. "Public education is one of the most important things we can do. I am glad to have had the opportunity, because of the gifts I have."

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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, March 13, 2010
Article comment by: Ron Elmer

GOOD Job Sis

Posted: Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Article comment by: Sharon Chandler

MC is my big sister, and she has always been a figure I have looked up to. I have learned much from her, especially how to be nice to others!
She is a very happy person and really cares for others. Thanks Merry for all you do for others and for me. I love you!

Posted: Friday, February 19, 2010
Article comment by: Karen Swanson

You are awesome, big sister! You are the only clown i love, lol.

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