A Volunteer’s Perspective

Most people would agree that milk and bread are the two household staples.

For Diane Hart – her family thrived on 4 newspaper subscriptions and a pair of scissors.

The family of six enjoyed reading The Times Herald Record, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Poughkeepsie Journal while growing up. Diane, her parents and her three older siblings would often cut out interesting or informative articles. Their “family time” consisted of discussing those stories as well as passing around books they considered to be “good reads.” The Record’s “Mini Pages” were a favorite! Even when she was in college, her family would email articles and links to each other. Diane makes sure that her nieces and nephews receive books as holiday gifts throughout the year. And her older sister eventually went on to become a journalist.

Diane will tell you that is why she considers, “reading as a true expression of caring.”
As the current Director of Community Impact at United Way, Diane has extensive knowledge about literacy rates in Dutchess and Orange Counties. Research shows that children from low-income families are exposed to lesser number of words by the time they reach Kindergarten. This has a great impact on their success in school.

This fact resonates with Diane.

It led her to become a literacy volunteer at a Dutchess County elementary school, assisting two second-graders with their reading and vocabulary skills. She spends one hour per week with Matthew and Anastasia. Together they read, write and play literacy games like word-finds, spelling bee scramble and Madlibs.

By investing her time and resources, Diane provides additional adult support to Matthew and Anastasia. They have formed bonds and Diane is inspired to help the pair succeed. Diane says, “They may not be my kids, but they are the community’s kids.” Diane and the kids often discuss family, school and their favorite things – like sports. They get to know each other on personal levels.

One of their favorite activities is looking at a picture and creating a story based upon what they see. Diane recently brought in a picture of a man fishing with a young boy who was missing a tooth. The picture not only assisted with writing and reading comprehension, it sparked creativity. It also provided a good dose of laughter!

Working in this capacity provides opportunity for learning outside of textbooks.
From sports and fairytales to the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy, Matthew and Anastasia are exposed to books and discussions of many different topics.
And it doesn’t end with reading.

Diane learned that some of the children’s classmates were in need of coats this past winter. So when United Way had leftover coats from a coat drive, 22 coats were donated to children in the classroom.

She leaves you with this thought: “Always be willing to help others and lend your skills wherever you can."


What is your volunteer story? Share it with us here!


Happy National Volunteer Week. We appreciate all the volunteers tirelessly working to make our community a better place. Looking for ways to get involved? Volunteer!