Santa Rosa, CA
FINDING JOY IN VOLUNTEERING
January 10, 2012
The midweek blues never quite get hold of 2nd grader Bailey Schmidt. That's because Wednesday is the day her mom, Sunnie Robles-Schmidt, regularly volunteers in her classroom. Afterward the two will often eat lunch together in the quad at Spring Creek Matanzas Charter School. "She gets so excited when I help out in her class or if I'm on campus doing something PTA-related," Robles-Schmidt says.
It wasn't so long ago that Robles-Schmidt's work schedule and single-parent status prevented her from volunteering in any capacity at her children's schools. But once a new marriage and a looser work schedule allowed her more flexibility, she immediately began making up for lost time. This is her third year as PTA treasurer, a natural fit since she works as a professional bookkeeper. Prior to that, she helped out with membership. Where there's a need, she's usually front and center, helping organize a fundraiser, taking on the role of room mother, or simply providing cupcakes for an event. "Honestly, I consider it a privilege to be able to volunteer my time," she says.
At the high school where her son, Anthony, is a freshman, Robles-Schmidt has been known to chaperone field trips. "There isn't quite the same need for volunteers at the high school, but I do what I can," she says. Anthony requires her attention in other ways; he suffers from a genetic heart condition and she arranges her schedule around his doctor appointments and periodic surgeries.
Robles-Schmidt's own mother was never able to volunteer at school while she was growing up and she remembers being slightly envious of the kids whose moms did. She knows that experience influenced her decision to become as active as she is, and she's grateful for the opportunity to spend more time with her children and to make a difference.
"I know not everybody wants to be as hands-on as I am, but I don't think people realize how rewarding it is to help out from time to time in the classroom or to go along on an occasional field trip," Robles-Schmidt says. "Until they actually do it, they just don't know how fulfilling it can be."
During this era of high unemployment, the idea occurs to her that if people were to take just one hour off from job searching and worrying and use that time to volunteer in their kids' schools instead, it would enrich not only their child's school experience but their own lives, as well.
In the meantime, Wednesdays will continue to roll around at Spring Creek Matanzas Charter School. As usual, Sunnie Robles-Schmidt will be seated at a table helping 2nd graders tackle their vocabulary words. Another day may find her organizing an upcoming holiday party in the classroom. And yet another day you might discover her tallying up the results from the school's latest fundraiser. She accepts that some people might not find these tasks all that interesting. "They don't find the joy in it," she says. "But I will tell you, without exception, that I find the absolute joy in it."
Writer: June Allan Corrigan
Photo: Bruce Brown