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Give back through volunteering

George Semeniuk announces a recent football game at Providence High School. Semeniuk's volunteer stint began at a baseball game, when another announcer was ejected by the umpire. (Steve Lyttle)

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By STEVE LYTTLE | The Charlotte Observer | Published: November 6, 2017

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Gordon Semeniuk was sitting in the stands - a typical parent, watching his son play a high school baseball game.

That’s when the public address announcer took exception with an umpire’s call. “The announcer made a remark about the umpire, and the ump threw him out,” Semeniuk recalls.

And that’s how Semeniuk’s volunteer gig as the announcer at Providence High School football and baseball games began. It was just a matter of stepping forward and volunteering, he says. “It felt like something I could do,” he says of the decision he made more than seven years ago.

School officials and leaders of parent-teacher organizations are always asking for volunteer help. Usually, the conversation is about tutors, reading buddies and lunch buddies. And volunteers for those important roles are badly needed, officials say.

But there are many other volunteer opportunities available in the schools. “If you have an interest, there’s probably a way you can help,” says Karen Bryant.

Bryant has filled many of those roles in her five years as a volunteer at Paw Creek Elementary School in west Charlotte. She is among a dedicated group of retirees from A Mighty Fortress Evangelical Lutheran Church that spends hundreds - maybe thousands - of volunteer hours each school year at Paw Creek.

Do you love the game of chess? There’s a school near you, waiting for a chess club to be started. Interested in sports? Many nearby schools would be eager to have your help as an assistant coach, a scorekeeper, or even a member of the “chain gang” during football games.

All it takes is to step forward, the volunteers say.

Bryant says she and some of the other volunteers at Paw Creek saw a need for a summer reading program, especially for residents of a mobile home park with a large number of lower-income families.

“So we started a summer reading program,” she says. “We got donations of books from our church, and we go out to the neighborhood every Tuesday for four weeks. “It’s a way for the kids to keep reading in the summer. And we have a lot of fun.”

Sometimes, volunteers’ work experience or hobbies are a perfect match for a club or activity. But there are also cases like Bryant, who worked as an X-ray technician and later as a customs broker before retiring.

School administrators stress that their greatest need is for tutors and “buddies” of students. Typically, these volunteers meet with students for an hour, once a week or every two weeks. These partnerships can build into friendships.

Ann Clark, who retired a few months ago as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent, recalls how a young boy she was tutoring became worried when he heard Clark was moving into retirement. Clark assured the youth that she would continue to be his buddy.

“There was no way I’d give that up,” she says.

Sometimes, volunteers say, it’s fun. Sometimes it’s work. And sometimes it’s both.

5 ways to get involved volunteering at schools

School is back in session and now is the time to reach out and find some inspiring educational roles you can play that will brighten your day and help children. Now is your chance to give back and find more meaning in your life.

1. Sports: Schools are often looking for coaches, scorekeepers and other help, including assistance with the care of athletic fields. This is especially the case with middle schools.

2. The arts: Middle and high schools have drama, music and other fine arts teachers, but help is often needed with concerts and theater productions.

3. Academic competitions: Would you like to pair your competitiveness with an ability in math, engineering, or social studies? Nearly all schools compete in events like Mathapalooza, Odyssey of the Mind and Geography Bee, and need coaches.

4. Interesting careers: Many schools are looking for volunteers to help with clubs - whether it’s chess, mathematics, meteorology, journalism or anything else.

5. Special hobbies: Do you collect stamps? Coins? Have an interest in history? Those might be clubs waiting to happen.

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© 2017 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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