Volume No. 16 Issue No. 10 October 2019  

  The Cover Girls of Black Forest

     The Black Forest Cover Girls of have been around for about 20 years. The group of retired women volunteer at the Black Forest Edith Wolford Elementary school.
   Gwen Burk said she started as a volunteer in her granddaughter’s fourth-grade class. She found out that the paperback books they were using in the reading room were falling apart. She mentioned the need to put them back together to her local AARP group (Black Forest AARP Chapter 1100), and about eight other women volunteered to help.
   The group met at Edith Wolford on a regular basis, covering the books with clear contact paper and re-enforcing the spine. Burk said, in the end, they re-covered about 4,000 books; thus, the teachers and staff called them the “Cover Girls.”
   Burk said once the school stopped using the paperback books for the reading program, they thought their volunteering days were finished, but the school asked them to stay. Since then, they have been meeting the first and third Tuesday of every month (when school is in session), depending on the need. Burk said they cut, fold, staple, trim, laminate and whatever else the teachers need, which can take from two to four hours. Throughout the years, Burk said anywhere from six to 10 Cover Girls volunteer for each project.
   She also said they used to help teachers grade papers until the state changed the law, and now only teachers are allowed to grade.
   “It’s a time we look forward to — visiting with each other and feeling productive doing something to help the teachers and kids,” Burk said. “We have made a lot of good memories through the years.”
   Several years ago, they were approached by the school and told they qualified for the Tax Exchange Cooperative for Seniors. The program is budgeted through Academy District 20; seniors can use up to 120 hours of volunteer work a year against their property taxes.
   Linda Ransom, District 20 executive secretary of human resources, said the school district has been participating in the Tax Exchange Cooperative for Seniors since the program began in January 1993. Each school district has the option to participate in the program.
   District 20 budgets for the program and decides how many hours each senior volunteer can use toward the tax exchange and at what rate they will be paid, Ransom said. The district decided on 120 volunteer hours a year at a rate of $6.85 an hour. The seniors are issued a check from the district for the hours they complete, and the senior turns the check over to the county treasurer to help pay their taxes. Ransom said the senior must be 60 years old and have a desire or passion to work with school aged children or the school itself. Interested seniors can contact District 20 at 719-234-1200 for details.
   Burk encourages seniors who like working with children or helping the local school to get involved as a volunteer. She said anyone is welcome to volunteer with their group, and they do not need to live in District 20 or participate in the TECS program.
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