July 31, 2014

“I can do that!” – Betty Miller Leads By Example

RSVP – Lead With Experience

By Bill Sedlacek
Retired and Senior Volunteer Program of Eastern Iowa and Western Illnois

“I can do that!” is Betty Miller’s “Mantra.” I’m certain that had a lot to do with her being honored with a Certificate of Appreciation for Exceptional Volunteer Services by Frances Willard Elementary School in 2013.

Betty, who readily admits to being 84, spent most of her life in the Illinois Quad Cities and lives independently in her Rock Island home. While I have been impressed by the spirit, vigor and mental agility of all the senior volunteers I have interviewed, I was particularly impressed by Betty. She is an exceptionally sharp lady with an excellent recall of what she did in her life and all of her volunteer jobs, especially working with Kindergarteners.

Betty was encouraged by her husband to be a stay-at-home mom, a situation more common when she was raising her two daughters than today. She radiates a lot of energy now, and I am sure she had even more earlier in her life while raising her daughters. So, when they began school she needed more to do and began working in the school system, first as a crossing guard and later as a playground monitor.

After her husband of nearly 50 years passed in 1999, she turned more to volunteer work. Her resume includes Trinity Hospital from 1997 to 2012 where she worked in the office and with patients checking in for procedures. She also helps RSVP with mailings. Betty has logged over 14,500 hours as an RSVP volunteer! It was in her favorite volunteer job, working with the kindergarteners at Willard Elementary where “I can do that!” originated. After starting there, she observed the busy kindergarten teacher doing things that Betty knew she could help with and told the teacher she could do those things in addition to her work with the children. Her job then began to grow as she settled in and took over more of the routine tasks, leaving the teacher more time to focus on instruction.

One of Betty’s interactions with the little ones was the Reading Bingo game, where she would pronounce a letter and the child would locate that letter on a bingo card. Another was to read along with a student from a book with two facing pages, one having more words than the other. She would start by reading the longer page and the student would read the shorter. The eventual goal was to have the student develop reading skills to the point where they would read the longer page. She also used her grandmotherly skills to help maintain order, an important job when you are dealing with kindergarteners.

Betty has many stories of her times with the little ones. One of her stories is of a child who had a difficult time adjusting to kindergarten. Betty worked with the child and was never sure how much she accomplished until one day she was leaving for the day and chanced to meet the child on the way out. The child said, “You can’t leave Miss Betty, we need you!” While Betty appreciated the award for Exceptional Volunteer Service, she cherishes another document more. That’s the big “Thank You” poster signed by all the 2014 graduating Kindergarteners. We hope you enjoyed reading about Betty’s example and follow her lead by saying, “I can do that” You can start by calling RSVP at 309-793-4425 or emailing: rsvp@wiaaa.org.

Filed Under: Community