“You are special, and you can do anything you set your mind to. You are unique, and you are loved.” This is the message that Children First/CIS volunteer Carol Dangerfield wants to impart to the children she works with. “You can never say this enough, and the children can never hear it enough,” she says with a smile, as her voice breaks with emotion.
Carol is the mother of three children, ages 16, 14 and 12. She and her family moved to Asheville 13 years ago when her husband’s job brought him to the area. Carol is a stay-at-home mom who is home schooling two of her children.
Wanting to give back to her community in West Asheville, Carol sought out organizations that worked with children. “I love working with kids. My passion is giving them the support they need.”
She searched online and found Children First/Communities In Schools (CIS), a local organization whose mission is to empower children and their families to reach their full potential by providing educational supports, services and advocacy.
Carol first started volunteering with the organization during the summer of 2016 when she and her three children distributed books and read to children in the Woodridge community at its summer meals site.
Once school started, she wanted to stay involved with the organization and started volunteering at the after-school Homework Club facilitated by Danielle (Dani) Wilber, a Children First/CIS student support specialist.
“I love working with the students and with Dani,” says Carol. “She epitomizes everything I believe in — she works through the tough issues with a lot of love and compassion.”
“I remember working with a fifth-grader where we were playing a card game about multiplication,” she continues. “As the game went on, and she started winning more and more hands, I could see the glimmer in her eyes as she got so excited. When I was walking her home, she asked me to please tell her mom that she knows her multiplication tables! I love seeing that excitement and hope as they learn.”
For the past 40 years, Children First/CIS has been empowering and advocating for children and their families in schools and communities. They provide services in high-need communities and elementary schools where a majority of students are on the free and reduced meals program — a leading poverty indicator.
“When a student arrives to school hungry or living in insecure housing or unable to access health care, they are less able to concentrate on their schoolwork — if they are even able to attend school at all,” says Children First/CIS Executive Director Natasha Adwaters. “This is why we have staff working in schools and communities where we provide holistic supports, so every child can arrive to school with the tools they need to succeed.”
These tools range from food, clothing, emergency financial assistance, parenting classes, after-school programs and academic supports where staff and volunteers help children strengthen math and reading skills and complete homework.
One in four children in Buncombe County live in families that are unable to afford basic necessities such as food, housing and health care. These children are at higher risk of hunger, housing instability and unmet medical issues. It takes a village of volunteers to help these students face these challenges and overcome them — with a kind word, a listening ear and an open heart.
Last year, over 200 Children First/CIS volunteers contributed 2,865 hours of their time to tutor children during school and after school, be a lunch buddy and strengthen reading and math skills, teach art, dance and soccer and be their cheerleader and trusted friend.
Research confirms the long-term positive effects that mentoring can have on vulnerable children and recognizes that parents and teachers cannot provide all the help most at-risk children need to reach their full potential. If caring, concerned adults are available to young people, children will be more likely to become successful adults themselves, and children who meet regularly with mentors are 46 percent less likely than peers to start using illegal drugs and 27 percent less likely to start drinking (National Mentoring Partnership).
“It sounds like a cliché, but it’s the truth,” says Carol. “When you volunteer, you get so much more than you give. These kids are so precious, and I just want to encourage and support them as much as I can. Thankfulness motivates me to help others.”
Please consider the gift of your time. Volunteer with Children First/CIS, and we will match you with a K-6 student who could use your skills, energy and enthusiasm to help them reach their full potential.
Contact Children First/CIS Outreach and Engagement Coordinator Jodi Ford at 828-620-9091 or JodiF@childrenfirstbc.org or go to childrenfirstcisbc.org/volunteer and click on the VOLUNTEER button.