Lara McQue, an Upper Perkiomen High School senior, teaches kids about senses using a rice table at the Upper Perkiomen Valley Library Monday.
Four local volunteers give time, talents to community
It’s lunch time and as the aroma of freshly baked rolls wafts around the Upper Perkiomen Senior Center, Clyde and Phyllis Ackerman are busy. Not busy partaking in a delicious meal, but readying to take meals to those who may need them the most – the elderly and homebound.
Every Monday morning you can find the husband and wife team faithfully volunteering with Meals on Wheels, a program through the Upper Perkiomen Senior Citizens Center which prepares and delivers meals free of charge to qualifying 60-plus seniors.
“It’s fun, we really enjoy it,” said Phyllis Ackerman, 79. “We’re busy, but this is something we like to do.”
Ackerman, a retired Upper Perkiomen School District secretary, said she and husband Clyde started giving their time to the program in 1997, shortly after retiring themselves. And after more than 15 years “on the job,” they can’t think of anything they’d rather do to start off each week.
“We really have the best volunteers here,” noted Sheila Ruth, coordinator of volunteers and social services at the senior center. “They are very flexible and easy to work with. If someone is sick I can just pick up the phone and someone is willing to fill in. All of them are extremely dedicated.”
Arriving at their destination, the Upper Perk Manor in Red Hill, the couple carefully transports insulated bags with the meals inside and distributes them to 10 residents with a smile and friendly conversation. Clyde speaks Pennsylvania Dutch with some.
“People are always very appreciative and very few complain,” Phyllis Ackerman said. “We always chat with them and spend a little time there. Some are more talkative than others, but they’re all nice.”
While the Ackermans may downplay their role, they are a vital link in the chain of people who make a program like Meals on Wheels a success.
Ruth noted they are critical now, especially as subsequent generations seemingly lose sight of the importance of serving others.
Lara McQue, however, proves to be an exception. The Upper Perk High School senior spends her time volunteering at the Upper Perkiomen Valley Library. There McQue spends several days a week helping children learn about science, reading and math in the Rainbow Discovery Room.
There, kids can find out about senses like hearing, touch and smell, as well as motion and how parts of the body work.
“I love science and since I’m going to be a science major at college, this is perfect,” McQue said. “Helping little kids is especially fun. When they see something under the microscope they’ve never seen up close before, their eyes light up.”
McQue, who also volunteers as an umpire for the Upper Perk Girls Softball League and as a cook and vacation bible school leader for her church, Calvary Baptist Church in Allentown, said she feels good about giving her time, despite giving up a paycheck.
“Volunteering is important because you get to see and spend time with people who enjoy helping others,” she said. “You do get to learn a lot.”
At Hereford Elementary School, Sheri Grennille also embodies the spirit of giving without expectations. The mom of a fourth-grader, Grennille has been volunteering at the school for more than four years.
When she isn’t working or volunteering as a Girl Scout leader, she serves as a library aide, where she helps students and staff find and check out books, as well as prepares new books for circulation. Every Friday she also helps in the classroom with activities like science experiments, copying and laminating papers, chaperoning field trips or just about any other need that may arise.
As the vice president of the Hereford Parents and Teachers for Students (PTFS), she also co-chairs the Scholastic Book Fair twice a year, which raises funds for books for the classrooms and equipment like Smart Boards, and donates books to the Upper Perkiomen Valley Library and local multi-service agency, The Open Line.
Grennille also coordinates moneymaking programs like Box Tops and Labels for Education and My Coke Rewards for the school.
She is truly a jack-of-all-trades.
“I love being part of the community and giving back,” she said. “It is also a lot of fun and satisfying to know that you can make a difference. Getting a smile and a thank you makes it all worthwhile.”
“I say all the time Hereford is not Hereford without its volunteers,” said Hereford Principal Ted Mucellin. “They are outstanding people. They always come through whether it’s helping kids with academics, fundraising, family events. They’re always there and they are a fantastic group of people.”
Back at the Upper Perk Manor, Clyde Ackerman slips a church bulletin under the door of a resident who is unable to get to the local church anymore. Phyllis hands out “The Fishwrapper,” a free, bi-weekly publication filled with stories and humor, along with the last of the meals.
While it’s a small gesture, the residents appreciate it. Sometimes it’s the littlest things, they say, that make the biggest difference.