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Spring Volunteer Highlights – Recognizing Heart Tutors

April 23, 2020

In honor of National Volunteer Month, Heart Tutoring wants to recognize some of our amazing tutors and the ways they are impacting students and the Charlotte community.

Tutors on the Front Lines of COVID-19

Chanel Jenkins, a five-year Heart tutor, currently tutors at Montclaire Elementary and is a nurse at a long-term care facility. She shared her perspectives on tutoring and how her work has changed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: How did you get involved with Heart Tutoring?

Chanel: I saw a flyer in front of Earthfare many years ago. It sounded fun so I went to a meeting to learn more, liked what I heard so I signed up and that was that! All through college I volunteered at an after-school program. I’ve always enjoyed working with kids. It’s so different from my day job, and it’s great to spend some time in an elementary school helping students master their math skills.

Q: What is your favorite part about tutoring?

C: Well I love the math, but for me the best part is building relationships with the kids. Listening to them, learning about their lives, and giving them support and advice.

Q: What do you miss the most right now about tutoring?

C: This year I have a student who sometimes wasn’t the most enthusiastic about Heart, so I would find ways to get him engaged. I would set a timer and say, “Okay, let’s just stay focused for 15 minutes and see how it goes!” By the time the timer went off, he would be really into an activity and say, “Oh no, I don’t want to go back to class!” So just being able to motivate and keep him engaged in the activities is what I really miss.

Q: Could you give us a little background about your professional role in the community?

C: I work in a long-term care facility. Part of my duty is acting as an infection control nurse. I provide education to staff and residents on infection control practices such as proper handwashing, respiratory etiquette, antibiotic stewardship, etc. I also spend a great deal of time educating staff on COVID-19. 

Q: How has your role been impacted by COVID-19?

C: I was in charge of creating the plan to handle COVID-19 and keep our residents and staff prepared and up-to-date, and things are constantly changing. Our original plan had 6 phases and our plan now has 20 phases. It’s difficult because we’re trying to keep our residents, staff, and families happy, all while trying to keep COVID-19 out of the building. I spend a lot more time at work, which has allowed me to get to know the staff and residents better. I’m posted at the entrance every morning to screen everyone for symptoms, so I’m getting to know everyone who comes in and out the door. If staff members show any symptoms, even if it’s just a runny nose and most likely allergies, we ask them to stay home. I call and check in on these staff members every day, and it’s been nice to get to know them and learn about their lives and their families.

Q: What are some ways others could help?

Recognition of the situation is helpful – writing a note to a team member to say you appreciate what they’re doing, or a note to a resident to encourage them and say, “Hey, I know things are crazy right now but it’s all going to be okay.” We now have a gratitude wall at work to help spread positivity. People have also dropped off cookies and cupcakes which is nice! Our staff is instructed to avoid going to the store to reduce the risk of contracting the virus, so we’ve started to offer grocery ordering and meal delivery to help them get everything they need without going out in public. Anything from groceries to diapers to personal hygiene products, we’re trying to provide so they have less to worry about.


Jane Shutt has been tutoring at Sterling Elementary for the past three years, and is the Executive Director of Pineville Neighbors Place. She took some time to speak with us about her experiences with Heart Tutoring and working in the Pineville community.

Q: How did you get involved with Heart Tutoring?

Jane: As part of the nonprofit I work with, early on we decided to partner with Pineville and Sterling Elementary. I felt it was important as Executive Director to model that involvement, so I decided to tutor in both of those schools. As I was looking for ways to do that, I got a note from Wake Forest about a get-together to discuss Heart Tutoring and how Wake Forest alumni could get involved. They had tutoring at Sterling so it all fell into place, and it seemed perfect because I actually double majored in business and math!

Q: What is your favorite part about tutoring?

J: My favorite part is being able to spend 30 minutes with the kids I tutor. They are a total delight and I just fall in love with them! My husband and I have 3 grown sons, so being able to be back in an elementary school is such a joy. The students we get to work with come from a variety of home situations, and for them to have that one-on-one time with an adult who cares and will listen and is there for them every week means so much. We both look forward to it – it is a highlight of the week for both of us!

Q: What do you miss the most right now about tutoring?

J: My kids! Knowing that I might not see them again this year is hard.

Q: Could you give us a little background about your professional role in the community?

J: Pineville Neighbors Place is a 501c3 nonprofit that serves those affected by poverty and homelessness in the Pineville community, including families who have students at Sterling Elementary. We provide the 3 F’s – financial assistance for rent and utilities, furniture, and food.

Q: How has your work been impacted by COVID-19?

J: Our first hit was when Crisis Assistance Ministry closed because that’s primarily where we get our funding. We weren’t sure if we could provide financially but fortunately two of our other partners stayed open, so through that and a United Way grant we were able to continue to provide financial assistance – but we expect the need to continue to be much greater. We have always been a “clients choose” pantry where they can shop for the food they want, but because of COVID-19 we’ve had to close our shopping and pack pre-selected boxes. People drive up and we load the boxes into their cars, or if they don’t have transportation, we deliver the food to their homes. CMS has feeding sites at Pineville Elementary and Sterling Elementary, but we were concerned about students whose families don’t have transportation to pick up those meals. CMS graciously partnered with us, so now we pick up the meals they assemble and deliver them to homes of families without transportation. When we started on March 18th we delivered to 10 homes, and by April 20th we delivered to 115. We are partnering with local churches who provide volunteers to help deliver these meals.

Q: What are some ways others could help?

J: There are three main ways people can help:

You can help deliver meals – for safety’s sake we are no longer pairing people from different households, so you can bring along a family member and you can deliver meals from your own car to reduce your risk of exposure to the virus. If you don’t have anyone else in your household to bring along, that’s ok! We’ll give you part of a route and you can still deliver the meals on your own. As long as CMS keeps the meal distribution sites open, we’ll continue delivering the meals to families.

We could also use donations of shelf-stable food for pantry – cereal, pasta, canned vegetables. To maintain social distancing, we have bins posted outside on our porch so you can leave donations without coming into contact with anyone.

Financial donations are used to help families pay rent and utilities. Now that everyone is receiving stimulus checks, we’re encouraging those who haven’t been impacted financially by the crisis to consider donating part or all of their check to those in need. You didn’t plan on receiving that check anyway, it’s like money you never had but it will make an enormous difference to the families who would receive assistance because of your donation.


Tutoring Bright Spots

Heart tutor Tracy Brown wanted to help Rama Road Elementary families during this school closure, so she shared a post on her Facebook page asking for food donations. Within 24 hours, she had a dining room full of food and $1,000 in donations!  Tracy and Heart Program Coordinator Susan Johnson worked with First Grade Teacher Melissa VanGlish and Communities In Schools Site Coordinator Dee Perez to deliver 70 bags of food and gift cards to Rama Road Elementary, which were distributed to families in need.

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When a Billingsville Elementary student said he doesn’t need to go to college because he plans to make it big in football, Heart tutor Camila Cox brought printed information about his favorite Panthers players, their colleges, and what they studied. The pair took some time discuss college together. Thank you to all the volunteers who go the extra mile to connect with and support your students!

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