Virginia – Patrick County
The Patrick County Retired Teachers Association (PCRTA) is known for its compassionate outreach to those in need. From July1, 2011, to June 30, 2012, 37 members volunteered a total of 942 hours in service to 5,511 youth. As an example, when Meadows of Dan Elementary School was heavily damaged by fire just two days into the 2011-2012 school year, Superintendent Roger Morris called on the retired teachers to come to the rescue. On Sunday, the day after the fire, he asked for help to coordinate efforts with the donated supplies coming in.
On Tuesday morning, their efforts began. Firemen were still on duty, clean-up had begun and supplies were pouring in. The retired teachers were tasked to sort the donated items, move them to a near-by church fellowship hall, and channel classroom materials to the appropriate grade level. All the textbooks had been destroyed, and the retired educators set about to provide students with everything they needed to start school again.
The 130 students at Meadows of Dan missed only one day of school. Because of the efforts of the volunteers and staff, school was running smoothly and calmly the next day at 8:30 a.m. Students were able to continue reading assignments without delay. Food and snack supplies arrived daily, and the retired teachers repackaged supplies into individual bags and distributed them to students at snack time. The retired educators’ efforts then transferred to organizing a library. Within a week, students could go into the cozy mobile library unit to read or work.
All members of the PCRTA contributed to this project. They volunteered, donated school supplies, and gave money to purchase materials, while throughout the year, they continued to donate, sort and shelve as more and more boxes arrived. Despite the enormous scale of this work, the project did not deter the association’s commitment to their established programs. They participated in the Back Pack program for needy children which involved providing food supplies to have over the weekend to 112 children who otherwise would not have a sufficient amount to eat. They worked with local churches to sponsor children to receive clothes and toys for Christmas Cheer, partnered with Ruritans on the Halloween Trunk-n-Treat, served with Rotary International to distribute a dictionary and thesaurus to all fourth and fifth graders in the county, awarded a scholarship to a senior planning on pursuing a career in education, were involved in tutoring and holding after school programs, sponsored 4-H clubs and scouts, served as lunch buddies and chaperoned field trips. They also participated in the Reality Store and Career Fair; organized church youth activities, and donated to Smart Choices Among Teens which is an alcohol-free, drug-free, after-prom event. With 37 members, 942 hours of service, to 5,511 youths and compassion that reaches throughout the county, PCRTA volunteers continue their outstanding reputation for serving children in need.
Idaho – Betty Anderson
Betty Anderson first visited Nicaragua with her church’s mission group in June 1999, and it changed her life. Following the devastation by Hurricane Mitch in October 1998, the group arrived to find profound need. In a land consumed by war, poverty and natural disasters, the rural village of San Juan de la Sierra lacked clean drinking water and few families had the money to provide basic necessities. The team worked hard and in the process developed a deep relationship with the people. They left saying that they must return again.
Anderson and her fellow mission partners did return the next year and for many years since. They had initially started out repairing roads and now worked on improving water quality and providing sewing lessons. Nicaraguan people have traditionally lived off the land and “formal” education has not been a priority. Children were fortunate to finish elementary school. Community leaders asked Anderson and her group to help improve education. “We could not refuse,” she said. “We had become acquainted with some of the boys and girls, and education would be an investment in their future.”
In 2002, the group came back again and this time formed a NGO (non-government organization) called the Nicaraguan Rural Development Agency (NIRDA). NIRDA focuses on children and education. Anderson and her team raised money to hire one high school teacher in 2004, and the following year they hired a second high school teacher and provided school supplies. NIRDA is now providing students with the opportunity to finish high school, and children are staying in school because they see that that there is hope of productive work in the future. Over 100 students have graduated in eight years, and the volunteers have attended many of the graduation ceremonies.
Anderson and the volunteers pay for their travel expenses. All funds raised go toward the project. The group’s motto is “Dedicated to Making a Difference”. They are dedicated to encouraging students to stay in school and give them hope and motivation for better lives. The volunteers care deeply about the villagers and the community appreciates the group’s ongoing special relationships with them.
Anderson’s life has also centered on promoting physical fitness and healthy food choices for young people. For 15 years, she and a fellow teacher worked with students after school for six weeks each year on a school jump rope program. They worked with the American Heart Association Jump Rope for Heart Program encouraging the students to raise funds to support research for heart disease and taught them about good nutrition and exercise. After retiring, she continued as the coach and worked with more skills, routines, contests and awards. The students learned cooperation, decision making and the value of inclusion, and their motivation and practice helped them develop lifelong skills and experience the thrill of success.
She has also worked with Girl Scouts and served as a volunteer 4-H leader for over 25 years. Her dedication to “making a difference” has made an impact on the lives of countless youth and people she has touched throughout her life.