NEWBERRY — Shelia Brown, former parenting coordinator at Newberry Elementary School, talked about the importance of the “village” during the Community Volunteer Appreciation Banquet on April 17.
“You are important to our village,” Brown said to the volunteers. “Growing up as a little girl in Union County, I remember those people who looked out for me, those who helped me grow into the adult that I am today. I’m reminded of those very nice teachers, those very firm teachers and even the sometimes mean teachers. My Girl Scout teachers, my long winded praying deacons, now I understand why they prayed so long, my piano teachers and others who helped me along the way. They were all special in their own way, and made me want to be the best that I wanted to be.”
Brown had parents that loved her and protected her, but there was a community of people who stood in the gap when her parents couldn’t be there. She said that is what the volunteers of Newberry Elementary School are doing today.
“My father died when I was 12 years old, he was the apple of my eye. I was completely devastated, my mother was left to raise four children by herself. I began to thank God for my village, those church members, and those nosy neighbors, and all the rest. I thank them,” Brown said.
In spite of her situation, Brown said her teachers continued to expect the best of her and no one gave up on her.
“Sometimes it is all too easy to do, give up on those who don’t belong to us, but I encourage you all to not fall into this trap,” she said. “Scripture encourages us not to become weary in doing good, for at the proper sign we will reap the harvest if we do not give up.”
When it comes to working with children, Brown said no one knows what a child will become, and it may take 25 years before the results are seen, but that means volunteers should never give up.
“As Barbara Chapman would say, ‘you have to keep pouring into our children and their families.’ Among the many things, you pour kindness, you pour love, a lot of patience, we have to have it, and we pour that into our children,” Brown said. “Firmness, a lot of laughter, it’s okay to laugh with these children, they need that, we pour in resilience, acceptance, we accept them as they are. Also, we respect them and we pour that into them, at the same time we teach them to be responsible for their actions, and holding them accountable for the rules.”
Brown will continue to stand in the gap, as others did for her. She said she doesn’t do it for fame or fortune, but to bless someone the way she was blessed.
“Every time you show up at Newberry Elementary School, you are doing some good in the village, it brings a smile to our children’s faces, it makes them feel loved. I believe it also lifts your spirits when you see their reactions to your visit,” she said. “Your smile can be the smile they need to see, your commitment can be the promise they rarely see in action. What matters is how you make them feel.”
While Brown said the volunteers may not remember the children 20 years from now, that doesn’t mean the children won’t remember them.
“Remember, only special people can do what you do, and that is to make the sacrifice to spend time with and help children you don’t even know. Most importantly, you give your time and your resources without payment and without promises, and for that we thank you,” she said.
During the Banquet, the Volunteer of the Year Award was given to one Newberry Elementary School volunteer. This year’s recipient was Sarah Johnson, Newberry College student.