WITH every Thursday night call, Reece Harpur and Shaun McRoberts' unlikely friendship continues to grow.
Each week, Croydon North's Reece, 14, and Mr McRoberts, a senior station officer at Hallam CFA, get on the phone and catch up on all the latest news in their lives, as any mates would.
The pair met through Anglicare Victoria's buddy program, which teams up mentors with boys aged 10 to 14 who don't have an older male present in their lives, to help them through adolescence.
The Lilydale High student has had Mr McRoberts as his mentor for more than three years. "I think Shaun is more of a big brother. He acts like a brother; he doesn't tell me off when I do something wrong like a dad would."
Although they see each other only once a month, their weekly phone conversations are a must.
"Normally, we'll chat about school and stuff for around 10 minutes," Reece says of their weekly catch-ups.
"If I'm having any problems we'll speak a bit longer."
Reece says that even though Mr McRoberts isn't always around, knowing he's only a phone call away is reassuring.
"Having him there when you need the help is great, just his presence . . . knowing there is always someone I can speak to."
Reece says he's grateful for the Anglicare program, and that hanging out with Mr McRoberts has relaxed him through the difficulties of adolescence.
"I think I'm bit calmer. Even if we just go out and get lunch, it's relaxing," he says.
"He's giving me goals. He's telling me what I need to do to get into the military, and now that's something I am aiming for."
Mr McRoberts first got involved with the program to enhance his leadership and communication skills, but now he believes there is much more to the role.
"There were so many other aspects as I got involved, such as building relationships with like-minded men in the program," he adds.
"Now, though, making a difference to Reece is the biggest thing I aim to do."
Mr McRoberts believes that Reece has changed significantly over the years.
For one thing, he's become something of a role model to his own nine-year-old son.
"I told him from the off when they met, not to swear and to set a good example.
"Thankfully, he's done that and they have a great relationship."
Anglicare operates all around Victoria, and always welcomes volunteers to be mentors. For more information, visit anglicarevic.org.au