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Ann Daley tells stories to students in Mr. Daman's fourth-grade class at Northern Elementary School. Submitted

PrimeTime cover story: What I like about Wednesday

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news Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

It's Wednesday and it's my day to do some special volunteering at Northern Elementary School where I will spend about a half hour reading to Mr. Daman's fourth grade class.

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It must be special because that I have been doing this for the last six years. Here are just a few things that make Wednesday a good day in my week:

- I get to be with young people. If I hadn't met Ardis Lucken and her America Reads Program, I would never have met the incomparable Mr. Daman and would have never been invited to volunteer in his classroom.

No matter how much you enjoy children you can't just show up at school and hang around. You have to have something important and meaningful to do. Volunteering gives me that opportunity. It's not that I don't enjoy and appreciate "old people." After all, I am an older lady myself. It's just that kids are so much fun to be around.

- Although the residents are happy to see me when I come to the nursing homes, I don't get the red carpet treatment from them as I do from the fourth graders.

Mr. Daman will announce my arrival in various ways, such as, "Here comes the syndicated columnist from the Senior Center." Or one of the kids will exclaim, " Mr. Daman, she's here!" and the applause begins.

And then the atmosphere changes. Mr. Daman runs a tight ship, and when he gives the word, the children find their assigned spots and immediately settle down. Lips are sealed, and it's story time again. These kids know all about hospitality and how to treat visitors with respect.

When I finish the story there is more applause and many, many thank-yous. Now, if you don't think these kids make me feel like some hot shot dignitary, guess again.

- I get to go to the library with a few children each week and learn about new books, authors and illustrators. Together, with the help of Mr. Pfleger, the librarian, and the kids, we choose books we think the class will like. We check them out, and we are good to go for the weeks ahead.

- If I hadn't been volunteering at Northern School my musical buddies and I would never have been invited to do a gig at the school. Thanks to Northern for giving us our big chance. And we would have never received those special thank-you notes from the fourth graders.

"Grandma Ann, you rock, and I like your hair!" And then our fame spread, and we even performed at the Middle School. What next? Lincoln Center maybe, or at least Nashville.

Mr. Daman once asked me if I could think of one thing that would kind of say it all for me when it comes to volunteering. To sum it all up I guess you can say that when I am reading to the kids at Northern, I seem to get a whole lot more than I give. My musical friends and I feel the same way when we visit the nursing homes, that if we can just bring a little joy into someone's otherwise humdrum day that's where it's at for us.

I'll wind up all this volunteer business with a poem I wrote for the fourth graders:

So what is it I like about Northern School?

The fourth graders of course, they are really quite cool.

The kids and Mr. Daman make me feel like a million.

I could probably become a big time politician.

But why should I do that? I like it right here.

So if I ain't dead I'll be back next year.

Volunteer opportunities

If you are looking for ways to use your special volunteer talents, call Ardis Lucken at the Paul Bunyan Senior Activity Center at 751-8836. You will be glad you did.

Coming events

Spring Style Show, 1 p.m., Saturday, May 15, "Blast from the Past." Tickets are still available. Call the Senior Center at 751-8836.

Twins Baseball Game, Sept. 22. Call the Senior Center at 751-8836 for more information.

Ann Daley is a Paul Bunyan Senior Activity Center volunteer.

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