Assistance League of Diablo Valley is a nonprofit, member volunteer organization dedicated to improving lives in the Contra Costa community through hands-on programs. Since 2003, R.E.A.D., one of eight philanthropic programs whose letters stand for Read, Enrich, Achieve, and Discover, has staffed local elementary schools with member volunteers who share their love of reading with young lifelong learners. As in previous years, all of the books donated in 2012-2013, 1988 to be exact, boast a sticker that states, "I LOVE TO READ!" - a group cheer that sometimes launches the monthly session.
Over the years, this program's success hinged on carefully selecting books that appeal to all recipient students, while accommodating diverse learning styles and various levels of English Language acquisition. The task proved labor-intensive but gratifying. In 2012, then Assistance League of Diablo Valley President-Elect and R.E.A.D. committee member Margie Basile shared a concern, "Now that I'm a grandmother," I asked myself, "books for children cover almost every topic imaginable, so why can't I find one about the concept and act of volunteering? Everyone has something to give to improve our community, children included."
Inspiration resulted when Margie and fellow children's literature enthusiasts collectively "took pen in hand" to relate a story, actually a poem, sprinkled with alliteration and an intuitive rhyme scheme, that would prove timeless and universal? Enhanced by award winning painter Stephen Osborn's colorful and masterful illustrations, the inspiration catapulted a creativity and relevance, entitled Where's Your Grandma Today?, that unfolds below.
As Grandma Appreciation Day approached, Ms. Mead posed this question to her elementary school students, "What do your grandmas do all day?" Each one realized that grandmas seemed busy with various activities; yet, no one could readily provide an answer. Consequently, Ms. Mead's question became the theme for Grandma Appreciation Day.
After days of preparation, the guests of honor arrived and happily related how they made a difference by volunteering in their communities. Nancy's Nonna helped prepare hearty and nutritious food, while Jose's Abuela served as a guide at an old ranch to share our nation's history. Freddy's Oma biked daily to an animal shelter to care for and help place furry creatures in deserving homes. Bubbe described how she taught math and reading in a children's ward, where bedridden students wear a mask. Ms. Mead's students heard similar accounts from Henry's Nana, Leo's Babka, and Freddy's Oma.
One grandma mesmerized the students by describing her experiences as a thrift shop volunteer. She had spent many a day arranging such donated items as clothes, toys, plates and candles attractively on shelves, all of which quickly emptied the minute that bargain hunters whisked through the thrift shop door. The proceeds provided clothes, books, and educational puppet shows for elementary schoolchildren, as well as food for families.
While the names for "Grandma" varied, their message focused on the importance of giving back to the community by volunteering. Ms. Meads' students did not receive merely good examples, they received a wealth of tradition. It is doubtful that any of the students could define the term "Social Responsibility," but they could live it by giving back to their home, neighbor, and school communities; they could, thereby, turn a tradition into a legacy. For if the grandmas amplified that we are never too old to give back to our community, it follows that we are never too young to give back to our community.
At this writing, the R.E.A.D. committee has purchased copies of Where's Your Grandma Today? for 54 classrooms in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District and 4 classrooms in Walnut Creek schools. A joint effort with Assistance League of Diablo Valley's Buena Vista Auxiliary, known for funding an after school reading tutorial program in the Mt. Diablo School District, accounts for an additional donation of books to be shared in 13 school libraries.
Everyone, grandmas and grandchildren alike, who believe in giving back to the community can purchase Where's Your Grandma Today? by contacting Assistance League of Diablo Valley, 2711 Buena Vista Avenue, Walnut Creek, CA 94597-2503, firstname.lastname@example.org, 925-934-0901.