On Friday, December 11th, I visited the Joseph H. Messina Children's Center to observe CCSWFL's youngest volunteer, Tillman (9-years-old), and her father Bill interacting with the early learners. Bill and Tillman began volunteering in early November of 2015, and are regular volunteers at the Joseph H. Messina Center continuing into the New Year.
First, a little bit about Tillman! Tillman is in third grade at Edison Park Elementary School. Her favorite subject is math. She is learning to play the violin and the piano, and enjoys going to the driving range with her father on the weekends. Tillman and Bill volunteer at the Messina Children's Center once or twice a week depending on their schedules.
As soon as Bill and Tillman arrived on Friday, Tillman made a beeline for the toddler room to begin to play with the children (who were absolutely thrilled to see her!). This gave me the opportunity to ask Bill a couple of questions.
What inspired you and Tillman to look for volunteer opportunities?
Bill: My company, Brown & Brown, is very charitable and desires its employees to become involved within our community. Before I knew about any agencies in the area, including CCSWFL, I was just looking for something for myself to do through my company
How did you two hear about Child Care of Southwest Florida?
Bill: I remember searching online for something like: “charitable…Fort Myers,” and CCSWFL popped up. I filled out the volunteer inquiry form online, and continued to look for other organizations to get involved with as well. It wasn’t until I toured the Joseph Messina Center with CEO Carol [Conway] and Director Tammy [Aronson] that I was hooked—and I knew that this was the place for me to volunteer! First of all, for a CEO to meet me, a possible volunteer, at the center and give me a tour?! What other CEO would be so generous with their time? It was then I knew I wanted to help, in any way I could.
That’s awesome! When was it that you decided that Tillman might be interested in volunteering at the Joseph H. Messina Center as well?
Bill: Well, another thing that made me decide that I wanted to spend my time volunteering for CCSWFL was watching how successful and creative the teachers and staff were with the children. It nearly brought tears to my eyes. I knew that I didn’t need to ask Tillman if she wanted to spend time with the children (especially the little ones)—helping and playing with younger children is her passion. I knew she’d be happy to join me, and asked her as soon as I got home from the tour…but I already knew the answer was yes!
(The toddlers had finally completed their initial excitement after seeing Bill and Tillman, and I was able to ask Tillman a couple of questions (which she answered reluctantly, because she’d rather have been playing with the kids!))
What is your favorite part of volunteering?
Tillman: I like my group because I like babies. I think it’s funny that there’s only one girl…and it’s so fun playing with everyone.
(There really was only one girl, and she was very happy to see Tillman!)
Why do you think it's important to volunteer?
Tillman: Because the teachers need help. Babies need different people to come and help them and [teachers need people to] play with the kids.
How can other kids your age, like your classmates, make a difference?
Tillman: They can volunteer to help teachers and teach little kids not to pull hair or push, and be good.
(At this point, I was feeling guilty taking Tillman and the kids away from the fun, so I asked Bill the same question)—What is your favorite part of volunteering?
Bill: I’d say I have three favorite parts of volunteering. I get to spend quality time with my daughter while she does something she is passionate about—help little kids. It brings me great joy to watch her participate in something she loves, and also something she excels at. I love watching the kids gravitate towards her. Outside of Tillman, I really enjoy watching the little ones improve skill-wise, grow, and learn each week. I also like how appreciated and valued Tillman and I feel by everyone at the center. We leave each week knowing how much the kids and the teachers enjoyed our visit!
Do you find that there are differences between volunteering alone and volunteering with your child?
Bill: While I always feel a sense of pride when I give my time or money, it’s even more rewarding when you can share that same feeling with your kids. While far from “well-off,” my children have far more than most, and volunteering helps them to keep that perspective. Most families are not as fortunate as ours is, so we should be thankful for what we have. Because we have frequently volunteered together, I feel that my kids do have a concrete idea of how lucky we are, but continuing to volunteer together reinforces this fact.
How do you think other children Tillman’s age can make a difference?
By participating in anything—play with kids, read to them, and help them. I believe that Tillman is learning responsibility, compassion, and many other valuable lessons, but by being the “older child” in the room. She helps to nurture, teach, and love kids at their ages of greatest potential.
Interested in getting involved with Child Care of Southwest Florida with your kids, by yourself, or with others? Visit http://www.ccswfl.org/get-involved for more information!