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Greenspring volunteers receive Governor’s Award

Created date

July 31st, 2017
Greenspring community member Anna Deane enjoys reading Dr. Seuss stories with young Crestwood Elementary students.

Greenspring community member Anna Deane enjoys reading Dr. Seuss stories with young Crestwood Elementary students.

Recently, members of Greenspring’s popular GrandInvolve program, a Fairfax County, Va., 50-plus initiative to recruit older adult volunteers to work in local schools with high poverty and minority enrollment, received a 2017 Governor’s Community Organization Award.

The award, presented by the Governor’s Advisory Board on Service and Volunteerism and Virginia Department of Social Services’ (VDSS) Office on Volunteerism and Community Service on behalf of the Office of the Governor, recognizes exceptional volunteer service in Virginia. 

“GrandInvolve is an outstanding example of a two-generation approach that is yielding measurable results,” says Gail Harris, director, Office on Volunteerism and Community Services at VDSS. 

“By sharing their time and experiences, the 100 seniors who volunteer in the program are making a huge impact on the children of Fairfax County both socially and academically,” she says. “The seniors, in turn, get the joy of seeing a future generation build skills and relationships that will help them for years to come.”

Lending a helping hand

Each Wednesday, Greenspring volunteers travel to Crestwood Elementary to mentor students; read books; and work in the classrooms, library, and copy center. A volunteer survey, distributed at the beginning of the school year, helps identify the various classroom needs.

The Greenspring volunteers also work one on one with students through Crestwood’s mentoring program, which matches an adult volunteer to a student who would benefit from an additional positive role model in their life. 

The volunteers enjoy lunch with the students, play games, read books together, complete a craft activity, or simply talk about what is going on in the student’s life. The volunteers also help out with special projects and after-school activities.

“Our volunteer [Greenspring’s Ms. Pearson] has been instrumental in putting books away in the library and helping to keep the library running smoothly,” says Crestwood Elementary Librarian Victoria Washington. “She is open to doing any task that we ask, and she is very efficient. She always makes us smile when she tells us stories about her family and trips that she’s taken. She tells us that the day she comes into the library is her favorite day.”

Crestwood Elementary kindergarten teacher Karen Thomas appreciates the help she receives in teaching the school’s youngest students how to read and write.

“Our volunteer, known affectionately as ‘Ms. P.’ [Greenspring’s Patricia van Gelder], is much loved by the children,” she says. “She plays games with the children to help them develop their reading and writing skills. The students love receiving her help. In fact, one student was talking about how Ms. P. comes to the class to be his teacher. When one of my other students overheard him she got quite incensed and said that Ms. P. was there to be everyone’s teacher, not just his. That is true love.”

Lasting impressions

In addition to assisting students and faculty with classroom responsibilities, the Greenspring volunteers help the students on a more personal level.

“The Greenspring volunteers greatly enrich the lives of Crestwood students in ways that go beyond the classroom,” says school counselor Sara Crummett. “By consistently showing up each Wednesday morning, the volunteers leave a huge impression on the students, one that cannot easily be quantified. Unfortunately, many of our students do not have a lot of consistency in their home lives or someone in their lives who is there to give individualized attention to them.”

Greenspring volunteers are more than happy to fill that void.

“The children just love it when you can pay special attention to them,” says Greenspring volunteer Anna Deane. “The teachers have such a big job and so many children who need special attention. It is wonderful to contribute in this way.”

Greenspring Volunteer Coordinator Katherine Knoble witnesses this joy on a daily basis. 

“The Greenspring GrandInvolve volunteers absolutely love the children, and the weekly interaction with Crestwood students is a highlight of their week,” she says. “The fact that the time they spend with the children brings joy is a truly wonderful gift, one that means so much to the volunteers.”

Forward thinking

As the summer days dwindle, the Greenspring GrandInvolve volunteers are eager to once again see the students and staff at Crestwood Elementary. The 2017–2018 school year marks the program’s three-year milestone. 

“We look forward to continuing to build on the successes and strengthen our program to impact more students at Crestwood and create more opportunities for Greenspring volunteers,” says Crummett. 

And as the students, staff, and volunteers head back to the classroom, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, in preparation for their September 12 board meeting, invited the GrandInvolve volunteers to the meeting to receive special recognition for their generous volunteer efforts.

“Like the Governor’s Community Organization award, the recognition is a tremendous honor for our volunteers,” says Knoble. “However, the most special and lasting award is the impact the volunteers have on the lives of these wonderful students.”

“All of us are so uplifted by the children. I believe that as long as there is a need, there will be people here at Greenspring ready to help,” says community member and volunteer Judy Molseed.