Kiwanis - Making a difference in the lives of school kids

When shopping at the local Port Orchard, Washington Albertsons store this morning, someone called out "Good morning!"

I turned to look and saw a lady I didn't recognize. She was stocking bread items but had stopped to wave and greet me.

"Good morning!" I said back, then turned away to start filling my cart.

"I remember you!" she said cheerfully.

I turned back and took a second look, but still didn't recognize her.

"You used to read stories to my daughter," she said. "Back when she was in Kindergarten. At the elementary school."

Ah yes ... that would make sense, I thought. Fifteen to twenty years ago, while a member (and then President) of the local Port Orchard Kiwanis Club, we went out each week to read stories to kids at local schools.  It was one part of our overall Club outreach to the community but to me, it was always my favorite part. My three daughters were young, and I would often read at their school - giving me a chance to see them in their classroom settings during the day.  

Photo of a volunteer at a Kiwanis event
My youngest daughter, Kayla Coleman, volunteers at a Bremerton, Washington Kiwanis fund-raising event.

It was so magical to read to those kids. They hung on every word. I always had their undivided attention. And I read with quite a flourish, often acting out the stories as I read them. I talked to the kids rather than read to them, and engaged them as the stories developed.

To this day, I'm stopped occasionally by a stranger, who says something to the effect of: "You used to read to my kindergarten class at Sidney Glen Elementary! I'm married now and I think of you sometimes when I read to my own child." Sometimes they remember me as "the Popcorn Man," as I attended  many PTA functions (I was PTA treasurer) and took on the responsibility of making and selling the popcorn. And now, today, another parent remembers, and approaches me.

Investing time in today's youth is so important, and it pays huge dividends in the lives of those kids. Many of them go on to volunteer and doing community service in their teen and adult years. And it also continues to pay dividends throughout the decades as kids remember and often come back to thank you.

I don't attend many Kiwanis meetings anymore and I haven't read to the kids in many, many years, but that's only because my work obligations prevent me from doing so. But someday, in the not-too-distant future, I'm going to have more freedom to do that kind of thing, and I'm really looking forward to that time.  

I really am. Sam I Am.