Seeking volunteers drives Chesapeake Elementary principal up a tree

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 11, 2003

CHESAPEAKE - In front of Chesapeake Elementary School stand a couple of large old trees.

In warm weather, they give shade; and in the fall, their leaves flutter down around the kids playing at recess. In a few weeks, one of those trees will provide a 48-hour home-away-from-home for Principal Jack Finch.

Finch promised the students and staff at the school that if at least 100 people signed up to volunteer a minimum of one hour at the school between Nov. 5, 2003 and March 1, 2004, he would sit in the tree for 48 hours. Desirous to help the school and perhaps amused by Finch's promise, more than 100 people have so far agreed to donate their time.

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"We need volunteers to add to the success of this school, Finch said. "At last count, we have 108 people (signed up). That's such a good response and we think others will follow. I think people just need to be asked."

Finch said school officials realized several years ago that volunteers were going to be an essential part of education in the years to come, as the "No Child Left Behind Act" held schools more accountable for children's' educational success.

The volunteers range from parents to grandparents to even one middle school student. Superintendent Sam Hall has pledged to volunteer. So has school board member Carl Lilly. Finch said the volunteers will perform any number of duties: reading stories to the children, helping them with their classwork, putting up bulletin board displays and helping out in the lunch room.

Parent Teacher Organization President Amber Bentley said she thinks once the volunteers spend an hour with the children, they will be enthusiastic about making volunteer work a part of their lives.

"Once they get here and get over the intimidation of doing something new and when they see how fun it is, I think they'll come back," Bentley said. She should know: her father, mother and mother-in-law have all signed up as volunteers.

Finch said the public response to the call for help has been heartwarming. "It's overwhelming to know we do have a lot of people out there who care," Finch said. "And when we work together, the kids win."