National Volunteer Week is next month, but Audubon Elementary chose to celebrate one of their most faithful volunteers today.
So this morning, when Helen Coombs showed up to volunteer her time like she’s been doing four days a week for 22 years, the humble lady who is happy helping behind-the-scenes was treated like a princess.
First, they greeted her with a tiara and a pink feather boa. Then, instead of picking up master copies from the teacher’s mailboxes outside their classrooms, Helen found “thank you” notes and gifts from students and teachers in every mailbox. After that, Helen was not allowed to make any copies or do any work. Today was all about saying “thank you.”
The faculty and staff brought in food for a potluck so the teachers could eat lunch with Helen in room #34, which was decorated with balloons and a blanket from her Audubon family that read “You have given your most precious gift, time and talent.”
Helen began volunteering at Audubon in 1995 when her grandchildren attended AES. Her background is not in education; Coombs is a retired nursing supervisor at the former Our Lady of Mercy Hospital. Since 1995 she has volunteered faithfully at the school from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday and misses only in the event of a family emergency.
The faculty and staff adore her and feared that she would volunteer at Burns Middle when her grandchildren moved on from Audubon. Her response: “How could I? This is my Audubon family.”
“She’s fabulous!” said Kelly May, Family Resource Coordinator at Audubon.
On a typical volunteer day, Coombs slips quietly into each classroom to pick up stacks of documents and then goes to the school copy room to make copies. School officials say she has every staff member’s “copy machine code” memorized so she can make the copies without disturbing anyone else. She also laminates, sorts, and “anything and everything we ask,” according to 5th-grade teacher, Bonita French.
To be fair, Coombs was told about today’s reception so it wouldn’t come as a shock. “I knew this was going to happen,” she said, “but I didn’t know it would be anything like this.” When asked why she has continued volunteering four days a week for over twenty years, she answered, “I enjoy this. It keeps me moving and gets me out of the house.”
The reception and celebration for Helen is a good reminder to all of us to remember and appreciate our volunteers, especially with Volunteer Appreciation Week approaching April 23-29.