“They make the program richer. We could probably do without them, but I wouldn’t want to.”
Paula Montesi, principal at Primrose Hill School in Barrington, was talking about the hundreds of volunteers in the town’s six schools, including about 200 at her school.
The 600 volunteers, including about 200 at Primrose Hill, were recognized at an annual luncheon Tuesday. The event drew principals, administrators and about 100 volunteers to the Barrington Public Library gallery. Everyone was entertained by the high school a cappella choir, No Strings Attached. (See a video of their performance above.)
Kim DeLuca and Maria Marra were two of the 10-year volunteers who got special recognition at the luncheon.
“I just wanted to be involved,” said DeLuca, who started at Primrose Hill when her two daughters attended that school.
DeLuca began in a classroom by helping pupils to write. Now she gets involved more in events, such as book swaps and the talent show at the middle school.
“It’s all been rewarding,” she said. “And I get to meet other parents, too.”
Marra is a former Barrington teacher who started volunteering at Nayatt School in a multi-age classroom. She has three children.
“I wanted to stay connected,” she said. “And the teachers need the help.”
Marra works now as a volunteer in child outreach.
Tracey Orchard, the volunteer coordinator for the schools, described the annual luncheon as a way to show more appreciation – appreciation shown by an array of posters made by children and teachers that hung on the walls.
“The posters set an example of being grateful and appreciative of something that is intangible, that can’t be measured,” Orchard said.
Reading from a list of things student said they are thankful for on the posters, Orchard started by reading a note from one girl:
“They bring sparkle to Primrose Hill,” she said.
Among the other things the children are thankful for, Orchard said, are “the baking, book swaps, class celebrations, planting things, computer help, field day games, the Nayatt 5K, great stories, and making things a lot easier.”
Another student wrote, she said: “Keep up the good work.” Another said: “A volunteer is worth a 1,000 teachers.”
The latter brought smiles and laughter to a room already brimming with happy, smiling faces.
“We couldn’t do it without you,” said Patrick Guida, chairman of the Barrington School Committee. “I can’t say enough about all your efforts. We have a very engaged body of parents and community members in Barrington.”
Outgoing Superintendent Robert McIntyre, attending his final volunteer recognition luncheon in Barrington, said: “I’ve been blessed over five wonderful years.”
Orchard has been volunteer coordinator for four years after serving as a volunteer for six years before taking over from former 26-year coordinator Joan Johnson. She said she is always looking for volunteers who can fit into a spot depending on their interests.
“There is a turnover of about 100 each fall,” she said.
Do you want to work as a tutor? How about reading to kids? Or working with groups? Or practicing spelling? Or monitoring recess? Or getting involved in fitness indoors or outdoors? Or serving on an editorial board at Hampden Meadows School, which publishes a magazine.
Or can you share your career with the children during Lunch & Learn programs? Speakers have ranged from doctors to architects to veterinarians to scuba divers.
Other volunteers work as Senior Project advisors at the high school, she said, or in the music department. Many senior citizens work in the school libraries. A directory of volunteer resources is yours for the asking from Orchard.
“They bring so much talent to the schools,” said Montesi.
“They just do so much all the time,” Orchard said. “I think this is unique to Barrington. They are our secret weapon.”