As many who volunteer know, volunteering feeds the soul of the volunteer as much as those who are on the receiving end. At SMART, we hear time and time again from our Readers how much spending time with the kids in the program means to them. But, it’s not often we hear of a story quite this incredible!
It all started with matriarch, Catherine Kelter (86), who has volunteered on and off with SMART for years, first in Odell and now in Hood River. “I loved it, the children would read to me,” she recalls. “And it was like having your own kids read to you, it was almost personal. I got to know them.”
Catherine had to stop volunteering in Odell due to the drive, but eventually started back in up closer to home in Hood River. “Kids now are so sharp and they’re not hesitant like they used to be,” she says. “I used to read with a third-grader and now I work with a kindergartner and a first-grader. They get to take books home quite a bit! It’s so wonderful for them and they’re so excited about it they can hardly listen to the story!”
Catherine’s daughter-in-law, Peggy Dils Kelter (59) spent her career working in the book industry and as a teacher, so she knows first-hand the importance of books and reading in children’s lives. “My husband and I made it a priority to read to our kids every single day, so Rose, my daughter, is an avid reader due to that,” she says. “If you read to kids they become readers.”
Volunteering with SMART when she retired from teaching was always on Peggy’s wish list – and in September, she got her wish. Each week, she drives herself and Catherine to SMART reading at Mid Valley School, and they debrief about reading with their students on the ride home.”
“I volunteer a lot and with different organizations, but the SMART readers program is the one thing I do that I absolutely love,” Peggy says. “You have the same kid week after week and they really become part of your life. The rapport with the children is so amazing.”
To bring it full circle, Peggy’s daughter – Catherine’s granddaughter – Rose Sherwood, volunteers for SMART in Hillsboro.