To the students and staff of Robert Smalls Middle School, veteran hall monitor Shelia Fripp is a friend and confidant, quick to come to the aid of others.
Now, in Fripp's time of need, the school community will try to return her many favors, raising money on her behalf as she battles kidney failure and hopes for a transplant.
"She's always been that individual who had time to give, to hear and listen to students," principal Denise Smith said.
Patricia Fields, a teacher and tutor at the school, said students feel at ease with Fripp -- they've told her things they might not tell other adults, and she has helped them through problems.
Never miss a local story.
Fripp has struggled to find the money she needs for treatment, but in about two weeks, the school has raised more than $500. Students and staff have donated $1 in return for being allowed to dress down or out of uniform on Wednesdays. The faculty also plans to forgo its annual holiday gift exchange and instead donate money to Fripp.
The donations are a blessing for the 42-year-old, single mother of four, two of whom attend Battery Creek High School.
"At first I was ashamed about it. I didn't want people to know what's going on," she said. "Then I said, 'Why not get the help while it's there to help me.' "
In June 2010, Fripp finished her first year as the in-school suspension coordinator after 10 years as a hall monitor. She suffered a sudden illness that hospitalized her for 2 1/2 weeks. Doctors determined her kidneys were failing.
She undergoes dialysis at home for 30 minutesevery four hours and can no longer work. She was forced to give up the job at Robert Smalls and a second job that helped her make ends meet. When Fripp and Smith talked recently, Smith said she knew Robert Smalls had to help.
The school participates in canned food drives and other charitable events, Smith said. So she asked herself: " 'Why aren't we doing this for someone who was always there?' And I mean she was always there; she was here for ball games; she'd be here early to monitor children that were dropped off early," Smith said.
Fields said she wrote a check the second she heard Fripp needed help. Smith said several teachers immediately donated $100 or more.
Combined with her savings, Fripp has about $1,400 set aside for medications. According to a fundraising letter from the Georgia Health Sciences Transplant Program, Fripp needs to save $2,750 -- enough for immunosuppressant medication and other medications for the six months following the transplant -- to even be put on the transplant list.
Fripp said she's hopeful she'll have the money -- and the surgery -- and recover soon.
"I'm ready to go back to work," she said. "I'm praying that someone comes forth to give me a kidney.
"That's all I can do -- keep the faith and hold my head up."
Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.