Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Moms take volunteer project reins


Businesses, others lend a big hand to Hillsboro schools

Years ago, when her children were young, Colleen Garrett was like many parents new to the school system: an avid volunteer in the classroom. by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Garrett and Willis filled boxes with donations.

After grade school, however, her involvement in the schools trickled off and finally ended, to her dismay.

“In middle school, my daughter said, ‘Please don’t (come into the classroom), please,’ “ Garrett recalls. “I still volunteered at the dances. That was humiliating enough for her.”

Now that Garrett’s daughter is in college and her son is at Glencoe High School, she’s finding her way back to the schools again.

This fall, she’s one of two Hillsboro moms who’ve stepped up to coordinate the volunteer efforts for the Hillsboro School District, something that’s always been left to chance and handled piecemeal in the past.

The task involves reaching out not just to parents but community members, civic leaders, business groups, nonprofit organizations and others to ask them to lend their time, money or expertise to helping students and teachers succeed.

“Especially now with economic issues, schools have less resources and increased demands,” says Garrett, a retired Army reservist who’d been looking to take on a meaningful task without the commitment of a full-time job. “It takes the entire community to meet those needs.”

Assisting Garrett is Katie Willis, a mother of two young daughters at Orenco Elementary.

Willis says she just quit her job in business systems testing to spend more time with her girls, in kindergarten and second grade. She was at church one day, when her pastor asked if any of the congregants were interested in an opportunity he’d sought out with the school district.

Pastor James Gleason says the seeds of the idea formed while he was at a city visioning committee meeting, and inquired about the point-person in charge of volunteer opportunities at the schools.

“The answer was, ‘We don’t have one,’ “ Gleason says. “When I heard that, my heart broke. I know what it’s like to teach these days with dwindling support.”

Gleason met with Hillsboro Superintendent Mike Scott to ask if the church could provide a small stipend to a volunteer coordinator position to support the efforts.

Willis and Garrett answered the call, job-sharing the position by working about 10 hours per week. Gleason says his church is not looking for credit or to spread any message — he just wants to see the community step up and take ownership in their city through the schools.

“I would be crushed to be a teacher and have no parental support, or to be a principal over a school and look around and every year the grass and weeds grow taller,” he says. “Why don’t we as a community come up and say ‘We’re going to do this. We’re gonna paint the buildings, spread the bark dust, have a food pantry or a coat drive.’ “

One of Willis and Garrett’s first steps was to meet with Hillsboro’s school principals and ask where they needed help the most.

They created a “Donations, Partnerships & Volunteer Opportunities” page on the school district’s website with a list of project requests, which they update weekly.

So far groups including Intel, Schoolhouse Supplies and TriQuint have stepped up to meet the requests. In January, they’re planning a breakfast for potential partners, to fill them in on their goals. They hope fulfilling projects will be a first step, and partners might be willing to adopt a school.

A roof and stickers

This week there were 13 projects posted, separated by elementary, middle and high school levels. All are specific, some small, some large. Some are tangible needs, other financial or people-powered.

Here are just a few:

Butternut Creek Elementary is requesting classroom computers, mobile computers/laptops or netbooks and flash-drives, as well as “high-interest non-fiction books” and art supplies such as glitter, glue beads, pom poms, foam and stickers. They’ve also indicated a need for funds to pay substitutes so teachers can have more time to plan with their teaching partners, and for volunteers to act as running buddies for their “Girls on the Run” program.

Hillsboro High School needs a construction professional to build a roof over a sculpture on campus. The school also needs funds for an artist in residency, and advanced art supplies such as leftover house paint, photocopiers, bric-a-brac for found art sculptures, shelves and a rolling cart.

South Meadows Middle School is hoping someone can donate musical instruments, science equipment, yarn or other craft items, straight knitting looms, dictionaries, electronic components, hobby kits, electronics tools, books on technology, design or aerospace; computer hardware (year 2000 or newer), and flashlights and waterproof matches for emergency buckets.

Liberty High School needs roses for their all-night graduation party as well as new running shoes, food pantry items and gift cards for needy families.

Glencoe High School is hoping alumni might be able to help out by donating their gently used graduation caps and gowns, honors’ stoles, cords and tassels, which will be used for future Glencoe graduates who can’t afford to purchase their own regalia.

To see the full list of volunteer project requests, visit: http://www.hsd.k12.or.us/District/DonationsVolunteerOpportunitiesPartnerships/tabid/1184/Default.aspx.