Educators hails three in area as super volunteers

Two individuals and one local business were among a select few recognized this week for their contributions to education in South Carolina.

Nineteen individuals and organizations across the state received the state Board of Education's annual volunteer awards. The awards are broken into four categories: businesses, civic organizations, individuals and school improvement councils. School districts make the nominations each year.

Local recipients included the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System Foundation for its work with Spartanburg School District 7, Christy Kesler, a District 3 volunteer, and District 1 volunteer Margaret Russell.

Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System Foundation was recognized for its focused effort at Cleveland Elementary School, especially in the areas of math and science. The foundation sponsored holiday wish lists for Cleveland students, set up health screenings, purchased school supplies and playground equipment and donated $60,000 to create an on-site science center.

Sheila Breitweiser, director of the SRHS Foundation, said the partnership helped renew in volunteers a sense of hope and optimism about what is possible in schools. Breitweiser said she was appreciative of the recognition.

"The administrative team of District 7 has been so forthcoming in their appreciation," Breitweiser said. "Nothing about this has been taken for granted."

Kesler, who recently moved out of state, was a volunteer at Cannons Elementary School in District 3. She served on the PTO and was president for two years.

Cannons Principal Karen Grimm said Kesler helped organize a new reading initiative, was a mentor to students, regularly brought in food for teachers on conference nights and recruited volunteers.

"She is a happy, cheerful person who was willing to spend lots of hours here to help in any way she could," Grimm said. "She gave it all she had."

Margaret Russell has been a volunteer at New Prospect Elementary in District 1 since her grandchildren, now teenagers, attended the school.

An avid reader, Russell spends time in the school's library at least three days a week.

She also helps in classrooms as needed. She likes helping students pick out books and tutoring them as they learn to read.

"I was so surprised, so stunned," Russell said of receiving the state award. "I'm glad they think that much of me."

The awards were presented Tuesday. For a complete list of winners, visit the state Department of Education's Web site at ed.sc.gov.

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