By Noelle H. Lowery
“You know that expression ‘it takes a village’? Well, everybody on Marco Island and Isles of Capri are definitely doing that.”
These are the words Tommie Barfield Elementary School Principal Dr. Jory Westberry uttered in awe of the group of volunteers assembled at TBE’s recent Volunteer Appreciation Tea.
TBE Volunteer Coordinator Debbie Cooper echoed the sentiment: “We just can’t say enough about what you do for our students.”
It was a morning filled with music, poetry and speeches honoring a very eclectic group of adults who spend time each and every week reading to and tutoring TBE students or dedicating time and energy to raising funds and providing guidance to the administration. It was a group that included parents, grandparents, church groups and retirees who just want to help further the educational endeavors of Marco Island’s children.
“Intergenerational volunteers enrich the children’s education by connecting on both an academic and emotional level,” said Cooper after the event. “These generous people bring a tone of patience and caring to their tutoring sessions with our students. The students enjoy this kind demeanor as they revisit academic concepts together, work through the challenges and begin to understand how to apply them to their daily lessons.”
Two of these groups — Stars on the Water and WOW — focus directly on tutoring specially chosen students who need a little extra help. Stars on the Water is composed of members of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and tutors second graders, while the WOW team from Wesley United Methodist Church works with students grades 3-5.
Wesley Methodist Pastor Rev. Kirk Dreiser raved about the children and the volunteers: “It allows us to truly be disciples in this community. It is a blessing for us to be able to serve this way.”
According to Cooper, as of mid-March, TBE’s current school year total number of volunteer hours stood at 3,586. This total includes school volunteers, SAC Members and PTO Officers, WOW volunteers, Stars on the Water volunteers and Picture Lady visits.
Additionally, TBE’s 211current active volunteers accumulated a total of 13,276 hours for the year thus far, and as a result, of this continued outpouring of volunteer support, TBE once again qualified for the Golden School Award and the Florida Department of Education 5-Star School Award.
PTO Officers Deborah Hobbs, Michele Richardson, Jade Purcell and Melanie Burns have dedicated thousands of hours to our school events, fundraisers and individual student/teacher assistance. Community members Marilyn Brockman and Theresa Gibbons have each accumulated more than 1,000 volunteer hours, and Betty Freeman is a “Galaxy of Stars” member with 1603 volunteer hours at TBE.
The event closed with thank-you cards and special gifts for all of the volunteers and a special reminder for the volunteers of the indelible mark they leave on the students of TBE.
“Every time you step into out school, you matter because were here,” Westberry told the guests. “You matter here.”