Capt. Harley Stuntz’s reasons for volunteering at White Oaks Elementary School were simple: he had just retired and the school was close to his home. His time and dedication to volunteering there, however, have been far from simple.
"If you donate a half an hour, that’s worth something," said Margaret Flynn, White Oaks PTA president. "If you donate 100 hours, wow."
Stuntz, a retired Navy captain, surpassed the 100-hour mark years ago. On Thursday, June 8, the Parent Teacher Association at White Oaks honored him with the President’s Call to Service Award, because of his completion of more than 4,000 hours of volunteer service at the school.
"It’s a little something to give back to the community," said Stuntz.
The school isn’t a stranger to such large amounts of volunteer hours though. This year alone more than 9,000 volunteer hours have been logged there, completed by 262 parent volunteers. White Oaks joined Stuntz in receiving a president’s service award by earning a 2006 Presidential Gold Award, which requires just 1,000 hours, 8,000 fewer hours than the school logged this year.
"To walk down the hallway and hear a child say thank you for your help," said Valerie Sikora, a parent volunteer. "That’s really worth its weight in gold."
TWO VOLUNTEERS, Margaret Flynn and Chrys Kelley, picked up gold level Presidential Volunteer Service Awards, meaning they accumulated at least 500 hours of service in one year. Two more received silver awards, for 250-499 hours of service. And 22 volunteers earned bronze level awards, for 100-249 hours of service at the school.
"It’s such a pleasure to have a common goal and to free up the teachers’ time so they can spend more time with our children," said Jennifer Pearson, a parent volunteer.
Stuntz began helping out at the school in 1996. The volunteer coordinator at the school back then, Rose Mahan, said she asked him if he would be interested in volunteering at the school after seeing him doing some yard work.
"I saw him working in his yard one day, and told him that we could use some of his time at our school to work with our students," said Mahan.
After agreeing to help out, Stuntz paired up with Patty, and she put his kindness to work with second-graders. Chrys Kelley, the volunteer coordinator at White Oaks, said Stuntz spends time daily tutoring small math groups, listening to children read, and preparing math games for children to take home.
"Mr. Stuntz is a wonderful volunteer who has worked with the second grade and Ms. Patty for years," said Kelley. "He is very dependable, and a fixture at White Oaks Elementary."
Since his help has mainly been with the second-grade classes throughout the years, it was appropriate that his award was presented just before the curtain went up for the second grade play. Second-graders and their parents filled the cafeteria and were able to personally see the man that had been helping their students all year long. Stuntz had even made the second grade play pamphlets each parent had in their hands.
"He will do just about anything that is asked or needed and we appreciate him so very much," said Kelley, as she introduced Stuntz to the stage for his award.
Flynn said they decided to present the award as a surprise to Stuntz, since he isn’t one to "want any fanfare." He knew he would be recognized for a silver level award for this year’s service, but he had no idea there was a larger recognition in store.
As Kelley began describing Stuntz’s service, his face turned a bit red and he smiled when he realized she walk talking about him. Some of the other volunteers had to nudge him a bit to get him to approach the stage where he humbly accepted the award. He said he appreciated the honor, but he doesn’t volunteer to gain recognition.
"To me, it’s something I wanted to do," said Stuntz. "It makes you feel good."