Olathe Couple Finds Volunteering Rewarding

Nov. 16, 2012 ~ Caring and devoted are two words others use to describe Seniors Serving Schools volunteers Bob and Joy Kearney.

Rewarding and thrilling are words Joy Kearney mentions when talking about the time she and her husband spend at Sunnyside Elementary School each week.

Joy joined the volunteer program at Black Bob Elementary School when her son, David, was principal there. In 2000, David opened Sunnyside Elementary as principal and Bob joined Joy as a volunteer there.

"There's nothing better in life than working with children," Joy said. As a former paraeducator who worked with gifted students for 18 years in Olathe schools, she easily stepped into the role of reading helper for first-graders at Sunnyside. Bob is a retired minister.

"We love working with the children because it is a way in which we can give back to others what was given to us," Bob said. "As children we were given things, and now we can give back to today's children."

"We give them groups of kids to work with and materials and they patiently work with the students to help them memorize the sight words," first-grade teacher Kem Selman said. "This makes a significant difference in reading because knowing those common words helps them develop confidence and fluency.

"The Kearneys' patience and gentle spirits encourage the kids to do their best."

"It's a thrill to see them when a little light comes on and they catch on," Joy said.

Bob and Joy also help during enrollment day and serve as course monitors for the SunRunners running club. They both received the Presidential Service Bronze Award for donating 100-249 hours each year since 2007.

Their volunteerism also includes adopting a stretch of 151st Street between Mur-Len and Ridgeview Road where they pick up trash three or four times a year and serving as docents at the Harris-Kearney House Museum in Westport where Bob's father was born. Joy is also an election worker.

"We'd be lost without volunteering and helping in our community," Joy said. "We look forward to it and it's very rewarding."

For more information about the Seniors Serving Schools volunteer program, please contact coordinators Diane Pollitt and Susie Kaminski at (913) 780-7002 or dpollittnlsc@olatheschools.org and skaminskinlsc@olatheschools.org.

Bob and Joy Kearney receive a warm welcome from students at Sunnyside Elementary School, where they volunteer weekly. Bob and Joy with students
Bob and Joy Kearney set up a word bingo game and showed the students how to play it. Games are one way to make reading fun. Playing a word bingo game
Bob Kearney helped students study their sight words. These are 150 words that are used frequently in reading at writing at that grade level, and students practice them so they will recognize them on sight.
Photos by Marlene Colgan
Bob helps students with sight words