Riverside County officials, principals, teachers, clergy and admirers were on hand on April 7 to honor the devoted volunteers from Read With Me Volunteers at a special appreciation luncheon held at the Renaissance Esmeralda in Indian Wells. So far this year, 342 registered volunteers have collectively given more than 7,500 hours of volunteer tutoring for hundreds of students from 16 local elementary schools.
Heading the popular event was the energetic president of Read With Me Volunteers, Roberta Kleinwho, along with her husband Clayfounded the nonprofit in 2004. The organization’s original mission, which continues to this day, pledges to help disadvantaged children living in poverty coming from homes where families only spoke Spanish to learn, read and comprehend English.
While awaiting the luncheon program to begin, guests were treated to several dance numbers by adorable young girls from Ballet Folklorico Dancers of Palm View Elementary. Rev Derek Fosse of Hope Lutheran Church in Palm Desert conducted the opening prayer. The master of ceremonies for the day, KESQ meteorologist and Read With Me board member patrick evans introduced Roberta.
“We are excited to announce a new partnership with the Child’s World Publishing Company and George Peterson,” Roberta said. “We have always struggled with providing enough materials for our volunteers to use, especially when they encounter a child who is just learning the alphabet and phonics.”
She went on to say how Child’s World will be providing 200 sets of “learning to read” books for volunteers in every kindergarten, first and second grade classrooms, as well as extra books for the Read With Me volunteers who are working with children still struggling in higher grades.
She also thanked donors for their generosity including jennie and Jim Morris, The Anderson Foundation, The Auen Foundation, The Berger Foundation, Bob and Aviva Snow and Bob Firring.
One of the highlights of the day was the inspirational and often funny speech given by 10-year-old Robin Lawson III, who needed to stand on top of a step stool behind the podium. Lawson, a Native American and member of the Hopi and Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians, lives on a reservation that extends from Thermal past the Salton Sea. He was wearing his hair in a long braid dropping down to the middle of his back.
“You may have noticed my long-braided hair,” he said. “For my ancestors and me, long hair says I have pride, strength and self-esteem. My people have lived and thrived in the Coachella Valley since the early 1800s. Of course, I am here to talk about reading. Reading makes me happy.”
Lawson loves reading nonfiction books that teach him facts about history and science. I hope to be a computer coder one day. Citing examples of stories from books that had inspired him, the young man wrapped up his talk by thanking all the volunteers who have made reading fun for him and his peers from him.
Edwin Gomez, supervisor of Riverside County Office of Education, who has been a longtime supporter and board member of Read With Me Volunteers, next came to the podium. Through Gomez, the Riverside County Office of Education recently gave Read With Me Volunteers a $97,000 grant to help with their $450,000 annual budget. The theme of his presentation concentrated on the word “magical.”
“So, when I think about Read With Me Volunteers, I think how it has magically engaged countless volunteers to empower children,” Gomez said. “It is a magical learning platform, especially when you see the spark in the eyes of our students when they are finally reading. You, volunteers, are the miracle workers cultivating beautiful magic in our classrooms.”
Evans invited the following volunteer honorees to receive their special awards: Darrell Cozen, Chris Claus, Anne Behm, Jay Kane, Ann McNeel, Eileen Todd, Cherie-Lynn Dardano, Anne Hannah, Kristy Ricker, Donna Piszczor, rollee smith, Kirk Suess, Susan Washtock and Mary “Lou” Bush.
For more information about Read With Me Volunteers, visit readwithmevolunteers.com or call (760) 567-1830.
DeAnn Lubell, writer, novelist and publicist, has represented nonprofits and businesses in the areas of marketing, event planning and fundraising productions in the Coachella Valley since 1991. She has served as a publicist for the McCallum Theater since 2016 and is a PR and marketing representative for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Coachella Valley and Read With Me Volunteer Programs as well as her own newly founded nonprofit Amy’s Purpose, an educational pet safety and predator awareness and counseling service.