Volunteers recognized for service to school

April 24, 2009

Kristin Mamrack -


Cook Elementary Fine Arts Magnet School, which has 658 students and 35 academic teachers, has about 75 volunteers; they were honored with a volunteer appreciation breakfast Thursday morning. 


"They''re invaluable," Lisa Elmore, a volunteer coordinator and school counselor at Cook, said of the volunteers. "We could never afford to pay this many employees to do what they do. They''re here every week, spending time with the kids, tutoring, mentoring." 


"Our volunteers are an important part of our instruction team," said Lois Kappler, principal of the school. "With large classes, they''re able to balance the ratio of students to adults. Our children value these volunteers. It''s another positive adult bond for them." 


A retired Cook teacher, Lynda Meharg, and her husband, Mike Meharg, recently have volunteered their time and efforts to refurbish the courtyards and outdoor spaces at the school, among other things. 


"I think that nurturing and guiding students in a capacity as a volunteer is extremely important," Lynda Meharg said. "I like to be active in a child''s life and I''ve always believed in the high expectations that the school district has had in the past and I would like to see it go forward. I think by volunteering I can see the goals that Cook wants to achieve will be achieved." 


"She''s the brains, and I''m the brawn," Mike Meharg said of supporting his wife in her volunteer work. "We''ve done little things to make Cook more functional and pretty for the school. 


"Through her efforts (with the courtyards), she''s attracted an enormous number of songbirds," he added, noting volunteer work "sustains itself."  


"When you do a little bit, you want to do a little bit more," he said. "It''s a very fulfilling thing." 


"Our doors are always open (to volunteers)," said Elmore. "We''re very flexible." 


"We''re always looking for volunteers," added Kappler. "It''s an ongoing position each year we want to build. (A need for volunteers is) constantly growing because of the size of our school." 


"We appreciate all of our school volunteers and the impact they have on our students," said Dr. Del Phillips, Columbus Municipal School District superintendent. "Their contribution is a valuable part of the education process and they make a difference in the lives of our students. If you are interested in volunteering, we have a place for you."