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April 6, 2016

Making the most of life by volunteering

By: Sue Edwards, volunteer reading partner in Twin Cities, MN

I am proud to be a part of Reading Partners. I am Sue Edwards, I have been involved with children, in one way or another for most of my life. I was married and had my first child when I was still a child of 17.  By 23 I had had four children, one who died at birth, and after 20 years of marriage my husband and I divorced and I was ready to begin a new life.

I had never been on my own and it was a difficult task and road to follow. I started college to become a teacher when I was 40 years old. My oldest son was then on his own and I was raising two boys, ages 13 and 14, going to college full time and working part time at a grocery store.

With many obstacles along the way, I finally graduated with my teaching degree when I was 46 years old, later that year I married my second husband Gary Edwards and I began teaching in Port Wing, WI.

With my new husband there came many more responsibilities. He had two children and his son Garrett, 11, lived with us. It was a difficult time trying to help raise my stepchildren when no one, especially my husband wanted my help.

When the step children finally graduated from high school, my husband took a job in St Paul, Mn. Two of my sons lived nearby so I was excited to move and spend time with my two grandchildren in Elk River, MN. I taught kindergarten and first grade in a Muslim elementary school and later at Hope Academy, a Hmong school here in St. Paul. I love kids and teaching is definitely my biggest joy in life. It’s what God put me on earth to do! At Hope Academy, I became the school “Grandma”. I got many hugs and I was always there to help kids in need!

I retired at 66 years young and while I was deciding what to do with my free time, my oldest son Scott, who had stage four prostate cancer, died at 49 leaving his wife and two daughters. It was a devastating experience. Our children, are not suppose to die before us, I would have gladly taken his place. While I was recovering from the loss, six months after his death, I was told that I had breast cancer. It was small but aggressive!

After a lumpectomy and one year of intensive chemotherapy and radiation, I was pronounced cancer free! Now it was time to start volunteering. I worked in the gift shops at two hospitals, a child/parent helper at Children’s Hospital and while none of these jobs were my calling, I waited for God’s help. In October, 2015 I saw an ad for Reading Partners on Facebook. I applied and within a few weeks I was one of the first people to work at Maxfield School Reading Partners!

I enjoy every minute of my volunteer time. I help on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and on Friday mornings if Matt needs help with make ups. I am a people person and enjoy meeting new people and helping kids become good readers! I have become friends with my co-workers and sometimes spend time visiting with them outside of the school. I have helped a few of the teachers at Maxfield with school work and I love creating bulletin boards for them. My [site coordinator] Matt is a great guy and I bring him homemade baked goods and fruit often. I am truly enjoying my life and I am so happy to have Reading Partners be a part of it!

Celebrate National Volunteer Week with Reading Partners! Share your story of volunteering on our website or use #ProudReadingPartner on social media.

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