For South Boston’s Linda Chiaramonte, it started a dozen years ago when she spotted a flyer at the library. Literation’s, a program designed to help students reach reading proficiency by fifth grade was seeking volunteers to help students at the Boy’s and Girl’s Club after school program.
“My husband was quite ill, and I had to stay close, but also needed something. And I thought working with children, which I hadn’t done, would be good when I was so absorbed in illness,” she said. “There is fun and energy with young people.” She has continued ever since.
Ellie Sullivan started eight years ago, when she wanted to do something meaningful and local. Both Linda and Ellie had leadership positions through their lives, and though each lived in South Boston for more than a decade, a wish to be involved in another way beckoned them. In addition to volunteers from various addresses around the city and beyond, the Boys and Girls Club on West Sixth St. became more than a structure to pass.
“I love it,” said Ellie. “The connection to the kids is great and being part of a group of people who want to make life a little better is a big part of it. Just yesterday a girl I worked with when she was in first or second grade and now in seventh came back. She didn’t remember my name, but she remembered the book we read. That was a great moment.”
Working two to four afternoon hours a week, the volunteers offer the priceless gift of working one to one with children who are in elementary school.
“The goals of the program are clear,” according to Site Manager, Beth McHugh, of South Boston. Parents identify their children who attend the Boys and Girls Club for the program to help develop greater fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. We know those who have proficiency at fifth grade will do better.”
She is the first to say that the methods used to reach these goals are where the individual talents and creativity of the volunteer’s shine, and the key to engaging children who could be at the gym, swim, or music.
“I am in awe of the coaches (volunteers) working in this program. They pursue any options. If a child likes jokes, I see Linda, for example, coming in with joke books and using her sense of humor. If a child doesn’t like to read but loves soccer or space, we will do anything to get materials on that subject. If they are more visual, we will find graphic materials,” she said.
In another synchronistic moment, Beth McHugh, retired from Fidelity after a successful thirty-three-year tenure, moved to South Boston with her husband, Shaun, after living around the country and city.
“I wanted to give back and keep it local and get to know the community. This position seemed right, and I see such amazing things. A boy wasn’t thrilled with reading, but now misses his coach when she’s not here. The connection that forms in these one-to one relationships are wonderful to see,” she said. “Linda is amazing in her ease and creativity, and Ellie brings warmth and fun, and as an avid reader herself, connects to help the kids build confidence. They and the other coaches are so impressive.”
“I am very lucky,” said Linda Chiaramonte as she reflected. “There isn’t a child who hasn’t touched me heart. I’m in a fabulous mood when I leave. They are so resilient and have so much to offer.”
Linda, Ellie, and Beth all like the well-known advantages of South Boston-walking, beautiful beaches and parks, proximity, and a vibrant city life. They have an additional love. It is afternoons filled with challenge and energy, and sometimes the frustration of goals often not easily reached. Beyond all, they are committed to Literation’s with the hope that a child finds joy and confidence in reading and an enriched life going forward.
(Those of all genders, ages and backgrounds are welcomed to find out more , and parents of children attending the Boys and Girls Club who may benefit can contact email@example.com. )
(Please reach out to Carol Masshardt at firstname.lastname@example.org if you know of a special volunteer in South Boston to feature)