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From left, RSVP Director Monica Cade, Shirley Nagle, Patty St. John, and Commissioner Henry Heimuller.

The RSVP volunteers have been hard at work encouraging kids to read over the summer break this year.

This is the second year the RSVP volunteers have combined the book program with the Summer Lunch Program, and Director Monica Cade said the group didn’t know how successful it would be last year when they started it.

“Dean Chesney and Patty St. John both volunteer in the schools helping kids read, so it was natural for them to want to expand the Summer Lunch Program to help kids continue to read throughout the summer,” Cade said.

Chesney and St. John have worked for months to gather books and coordinate the reading program along with Joy McCartney, and St. Helens School District Nutrition Director Misty Crawford. Cade said she originally connected with Crawford about ten years ago when she was the director of the Foster Grandparents Program – another Senior Corps project like RSVP.

The group received donations in the form of hundreds of books, many from Bill and Claudia Eagle – the local couple who distribute books to area kindergartners each spring, as previously reported by The Chronicle.

The RSVP volunteers also set up a lending library at Lewis & Clark Elementary in St. Helens for children who attend the Summer Lunch Program. On Mondays, volunteers have been taking books over to Campbell Park for the children who eat there.

“When I became the director for RSVP, I continued to coordinate volunteers for the Summer Lunch Program,” Cade said. “I have several volunteers that help every year at both the Lewis & Clark and Campbell Park locations.”

According Cade, when kids attend the Summer Lunch Program, they are able to check out a book and keep it as long as they want to read it. When the children are done with their book, they bring it back to the program and check out another. Then, at the end of the summer, each child will get to select a book to keep. The volunteers also provide books for the children in the kinder camps to keep and offer to read to the children in the cafeteria when they’re finished eating.

“The program itself is amazing,” Commissioner Henry Heimuller said. “The ladies who spearhead that thing do a great job. They are just stalwart volunteers and, from the RSVP perspective, are involved in lots of different things and I give then tons of credit for that.”

Cade said the group has always had the same volunteers that work with kids all year round, helping them read in school and through the summer.

“It really helped having grandparents that the kids already recognized from school,” Cade said. “Over the years, the grandparents have consistently been involved in may activities with the Summer Lunch Program – they eat lunch with the kids, help teach them to wash their hands before eating, do crafts, play games, and engage in conversations with them.”

Heimuller donated several large containers to store the books in after the group was having a hard time finding a way to store them to keep them from damage.

“Thanks to all volunteers for encouraging kids to keep reading all summer long,” Cade said. “All the volunteers play an important role in mentoring the kids and providing important role models for them.”

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