The Fairfax County School System honored 200 of its school volunteers at a cookies and punch reception in Lake Braddock Secondary School cafeteria recently.
The 200 outstanding volunteers were selected from a corps of approximately 35,000, who last year contributed 1,014,478 volunteer hours to schools all over the county.
Although most volunteers are reluctant to put a price tag on their services or the schools, based on the average of 65 per hour figure recommended by the National Information Center on Volunteerism, their asistance was worth $4,717,322.70 to the system last year.
According to Sarah Lahr, volunteer coordinator for Fairfax schools, unpaid assitants may work as teachers' aides, help in clinics, libraries or cafererias, help in the art, music and drama programs, work in physical education or playground activities, organize career centers for high schools, do fundraising, help with field trips or work on beautifying the school grounds, among other jobs.
At the reception members of the county School Board officially greeted and thanked the volunteers, who were then entertained by high school students from each of four school areas. On display were projects that volunteers had helped with during the past [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Last month, the School Board [WORD ILLEGIBLE] passed a resolution of appreciation for the work of all the school volunteers.
Although parents of school children, particularly mothers, from the backbone of the volunteer corps, Lahr reports that many of the volunteers do not have children enrolled in the schools, but enjoy working with young people.
For instance Ralph Jordan, a retired county employe works as a teachers' aide in the math program at Rose Hill School.
Jordan, who was among those honored at the reception, called the two hours he spends with the fourth and sixth grade classes four days a week "very rewarding."
At Masonville Elementary School in Area II, Sally Anis teaches vocal music to all grades every Thursday and Friday. Anis volunteered when she learned that budget problems would force the school to eliminate its vocal music program.
Most elementary schools in the county have some type of volunteer program, according to Lahr. But the program and the use of volunteers is up to each school principal.
Where there is a program, a coordinator for volunteer activities is usually selected from among the parents by the principal or the PTA. All volunteers work under the direction of teachers and staff and are required to follow the study program and procedures when tutoring or working as aides.
Not all school coordinators are parents. Cora Fisher, who calls herself an older retired person, has organized and run the volunteer program at Centreville Elementary for two years.
Lahr reports that many students volunteer to work with younger children as tutors and study aides.
At Virginia Hills Elementary School third graders volunteer as library aides, and librarian Lorraine Kozel trains the children.
"They do very sophisticated work sometimes," she says.
Sometimes the volunteers organize a program to meet a specific need, Lahr explains.
One such example are the Career Centers at a number of high schools. At Lee High and Stuart High Schools parents staff the centers as well as gather and catalogue materials for careers, job requirments, colleges and training.
At Cedar Lane Elementary and at Churchill Road Elementary, parents are helping to teach nutrition. At Churchill, kindergarten teacher Beatrice Bavry has parents take a small group of children shopping for groceries or snacks. The children then help prepare the snacks in the classroom.
"It teaches children pricing and numbers as well as encourages an interest in nutrition," Bavry says.
At Centreville Elementary School, Mike Tripp works several mornings a week with the physical education program. Tripp, who works as supermarket manager, has an 8-year-old son in the school.
Not all volunteers work directly with children, Lahr says.
At Dogwood Elementary, parents are building a small amphitheater on the grounds for the children and at Wakefield Forest Elementary, the atrium of the school has been planted with flowers, herbs and vegetables; walking paths also have been built. At Centreville Elementary parents helped build a nature trail was built on the wooded grounds.
The volunteer program is organized in individual schools with an overall coodinator in each area. Besides Hottle, other area coordinators are Nancy Wright for area II, Jane McCallum for area III and Susan Hardage for area IV. Most volunteer coordinators began as volunteers themselves.