A Family of Volunteers

For Pendle, volunteering is a family affair on more levels than one.

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It all started when Pendle Whisnant, a Micah volunteer from River Road Presbyterian Church, recognized that the congregation had volunteers who were not able to come during school hours.  So as the end of the year and SOLs approached, Pendle and Catlin Callister, the teacher Pendle had been working with, found a way to get those volunteers involved, in after school hours.  They began writing exercises with selected 5th graders.  “They would have a writing prompt and we’d help them revise their draft,” Pendle explains.  The kids and volunteers had so much fun together that they decided to continue the project the next year school year.  The after-school writing program was reborn as a night to “Read and Relax”.

PendleR&RNow every third Thursday, over 60 students stay after school to join in Read and Relax. The students, ranging from 3rd to 5th grade, stay after-school with their teacher working on reading activities.  At 5 o’clock, over 20 volunteers from River Road Presbyterina arrive to read books with the kids.  Many of the kids have a regular reading buddy, and look forward to seeing them each month and reading in their small group.  Food follows the reading time at six, and everyone sits down to enjoy each other’s company. Door prizes such as hula hoops and balls often follow the kids home.

Pendle works to help everyone to feel at home.  She offers rides to new volunteers to lets them relax into their roles.  She says she’s very aware that, “there’s this perception that [the kids] will be rough,” because of where they’ve grown up.  But once volunteers meet the kids, they come to understand that they’re really more loving and more receptive to encouragement than they would have thought.  She helps the parents relax when they come to pick up their children and encourages them to join the kids for the meal.  And she keeps in touch with the kids while she’s at the school during the week, reassuring them when they ask, “Is my [person] coming today?”  She makes the evening feel like one big family.


Ann, Pendle’s mother, reading at a Read and Relax night.

Volunteering with Micah has always been about family for Pendle.  Her mother was the one who got her volunteering.  And now, her children are actively involved.  Her son, Gray, began volunteering with her when she first started the after-school program.  He has continued to be involved, and was even inspired to begin a summer enrichment program for the students.  The volunteer group for Read and Relax has become a true multigenerational project. Half of the volunteers are teens. Pendle is thrilled with the volunteers.  She says, “There are so few things that teenagers get to do with their parents…that they want to do.”  With Read and Relax, they have created the perfect venue where everyone can enjoy themselves.

For Pendle, the motivation is simple.  “I come back because it’s flat out fun!” she says.  She loves reading with the kids at Reid and says, “this is one of the highlights of my week.”   She adds, “It’s a part of my life. If I left, I feel like I’d be giving up more than they would.”

The kids in Ms. Callister’s class may disagree with her.  Catlin told her the story of one student who had his hands together in silent and earnest prayer to get picked to go with Pendle’s reading group. She chose him to go along because she wanted him to know that prayers are heard and answered.  That same faith is what brings Pendle to the school as well.  She says, “Faith is where my care and compassion comes from.”


Click here to see more pictures from a Read and Relax night and other events Micah Partners have supported.

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