OCEAN PARK - The gymnasium at Ocean Park Elementary School rang with cheers and applause Friday as 30 of the school's volunteers were honored at an assembly. There were standing ovations, hugs and handshakes and it was evident how much the staff and students appreciate what these volunteers do.
Principal Dustin Salisbury announced to the students that, "It would not be possible to educate all of you without all of these wonderful helpers and stewards of our community."
During this school year, nearly 70 people volunteered in a variety of capacities. Some worked at the school, while others volunteered on projects from their homes. However, all of the volunteers couldn't make it to the assembly, the ones that did received praise and flowers from the staff and students.
Annie Fletcher organized the assembly. Principal Salisbury announced that she played an integral role in "getting all the volunteers here."
Teacher Suzanne Knutzen said that she has "so much gratitude in my heart for the volunteers that help in my classroom." She explained to the students that volunteering can take more than one form. "Everybody has a different way they like to help and serve. Some of our volunteers helped at home with projects. Marilyn Sheldon very often could do things at home and that fit her lifestyle." She said another volunteer, a student's mother, also worked at home translating letters into Spanish, which the students sent to Mexico.
Knutzen stressed that, "The spirit of a volunteer is someone who gets pleasure and gets their reward from helping others." She went on to say that this reward often comes when a volunteer walks through a classroom door and is greeted with hugs and excitement.
The first volunteers to be recognized were introduced by Fletcher. She asked them to stand, as student Elizabeth Pattison presented each of the three women with a pink carnation. Sue Raymond, Bonnie Cozby and Lestia Price are members of the Peninsula Arts Association. Fletcher asked the students, "Remember when we had all those beautiful bowls in our hallways? And you got to take those lumps of clay and turn them into not only beautiful bowls, but also something that you could eat your ice cream, your soup and your cereal out of?" The students obviously recalled the Empty Bowls project and applauded loudly. Fletcher then faced Raymond, Cozby and Price and thanked them for being part of the project that raised donations of more than $4,000.
Fletcher also recognized former Ocean Park Elementary Principal Bette Arne. "You know she really loves you when she comes back to school after she's retired to listen to you read. And I know you do your best reading when you're sitting across from Mrs. Arne." Students responded with thunderous applause.
Volunteers Peter and Linda Janke of Oysterville were acknowledged by Fletcher, who said, "They have been at this school far, far longer than I have. And I'm just curious," she said, facing the students. "If you have ever had Mr. or Mrs. Janke as a reading partner, could you stand up? Maybe not just this year - maybe two or three years ago." Scores of students got on their feet. "Look at that!" Fletcher exclaimed. Then, she turned to the Jankes and said, "That's a lot of lives you've impacted."
All of the teachers got time at the microphone to thank the volunteers that had given time and effort to their classrooms. Many of the volunteers were parents of Ocean Park Elementary students. Principal Salisbury also acknowledged this, saying, "I'm announcing the Foops group, which stands for Friends of Ocean Park School. And as you know, parents are a very important part of our school here. And so often, it's not just parents. We have other community members that share in volunteering at our school and our community schools."
The assembly's message seemed to be two-fold to show appreciation to the volunteers, and also to use them as an example to students, so that these children can develop a mindset that investigates what they can do as kids to volunteer and help. Fletcher brought a student, Alicia, to the microphone and told students, "She has a little something she wants to share with you. So listen carefully. There is a message in the words she is about to say. I want to see if you can hear that message."
Alicia said, "If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito." Students laughed and then applauded. Fletcher again stood at the mic and explained, "You know how small those mosquitoes are and how much they hurt when they bite you? So, what Alicia is saying is that no matter now small you are, no matter how tall you are, no matter how young you are, and no matter how old you are, every single one of you has something that you can share with somebody else, whether it be reading with your little brother, maybe helping your mom or dad put the dishes away, maybe cleaning up the house a little bit so that when company comes, it's not crazy and you're not tripping over everything. So, now matter how small you are, you can make a difference in your world, in your house, in your school, in your community. So this is my challenge to you. This weekend, I want you to think of a way that you can be a volunteer, no matter what it is. It might be a little thing. It might be a big thing. I want you to think, 'How could I volunteer?' And then on Monday, when I see you, I want you to come and tell me what it is that you plan to do, to make your world a better place. OK? Thumbs up?"
All of the students gave the thumbs up. At this assembly, they got the message both by example and words.