Lake Forest gives thanks to its volunteers

Volunteer coordinator Freddie Young thanks fellow volunteers. Young also cooked all of the food.

AIDA MALLARD/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 2:20 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 2:20 p.m.

Lake Forest Elementary School said "thank you" to its volunteers with an outpouring of love that included a lot of praise, gift bags, a giant certificate and a lunch feast.

Nearly 70 people, including volunteers, school staff and visitors, attended the annual Volunteer Appreciation Program held last Wednesday at the school located in east Gainesville.

Diane Hill, Lake Forest principal, thanked the volunteers and praised them for their work in helping the students with academics and discipline.

"You have the hardest job," Hill said. "You bring something to the table to make our children better."

"Everyone brings a different part to the puzzle," continued Hill. "Volunteers, parents, staff, community and student, it takes all these aspects to come together for one child to succeed."

Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell offered words of encouragement.

"You're ensuring that children know they have a purpose and are valued," Darnell said. "Every single one here is making a difference in a child's life."

Liz Stark, volunteer coordinator for Alachua County Public Schools, spoke about the tangible value volunteers provide to schools and students. She said last school year, 26,500 volunteers districtwide provided 682,000 volunteer hours. She said more than 200 volunteers at Lake Forest provided 14,700 volunteer hours.

"You help our children have a better life," Stark told the volunteers. "What makes the most impact are the volunteers and parents that work in the classroom with our students."

Freddie Young, who volunteers to serve as volunteer coordinator at Lake Forest, organized the event and prepared all the food, which consisted of ham and turkey with all of the fixings.

Young said the children draw her to Lake Forest every day.

"The children need us most," Young said. "They need someone to encourage them and tell them they're loved. It's about the children."

Mae Williams and Shirline Able are two of the many volunteers at Lake Forest. They both help out in fifth-grade classrooms.

"They're our babies," Williams and Able agreed. "We love them and we treat them like our own."

In a telephone interview, Hill singled out Young for special praise in recognition of her devotion to Lake Forest students. She said Young should have been recognized at the event, but wasn't.

"The person who should have been recognized the most was so busy making sure everyone else is recognized," Hill said. "We would like to recognize Freddie Young for all she does for our school."

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