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School superintendent lauds volunteers (with photo gallery)

BRADENTON — Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Tutoring. Reading. Mentoring.

Even writing an urgent letter to the “Tooth Fairy.”

That describes the 2010 Outstanding School Volunteer Award recipients and the 40-plus volunteers honored Tuesday by the Manatee County School District at Freedom Village.

According to district statistics, some 4,300 volunteers contributed more than 170,000 hours during the school year — a savings of $3.3 million.

“We’d be $3.3 million worse off without them,” School Superintendent Tim McGonegal said at Tuesday’s luncheon. “Right now kids come from single-parent households, some are homeless. But it’s volunteers like these who make a difference for kids. They are the very best of Manatee County.”

Among them:

n Youth Volunteer of the Year — Southeast High junior Bonita Macias, for teaching non-English-speaking kindergartners to read at Wakeland Elementary.

“Seeing them read, seeing them happy, I love it,” she said.

n Senior Volunteer of the Year — Diane LaPointe, a retired firefighter and retired Tillman Elementary teacher, for continuing to work with Tillman’s disadvantaged students.

“There are so many things they haven’t experienced and I try to bring them what experience I have,” she said.

n Outstanding Male Volunteer — Michael Haslem, a Sarasota County firefighter, for helping out at Abel Elementary, where his wife teaches and his two children attend school.

“I want them to do the right thing and take time to help others,” he said. “I want to set a good example.”

n Adult Volunteer of the Year — Donna McCrane, for all she does at Gene Witt Elementary.

Like writing to the Tooth Fairy.

“A little boy came in hysterical, because he had swallowed his tooth at lunch,” she recalled. “I said, ‘You know what? It’s no big deal. I know exactly what to do.’”

McCrane got a little “treasure box” from the clinic the school sends home when a child loses a tooth and she wrote the Tooth Fairy a note.

“I said, ‘A.J. lost his tooth today, so he wasn’t able to have it here, but if you have any questions call Ms. Donna,’” she said. “I wrapped it all up and he took it home that night.”

McCrane followed up with a phone call to the boy’s mother.

“I told her to make sure she hooked him up.”

McGonegal was impressed.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “The little extra things that build relationships with children. They feel love. They feel wanted.”

Volunteers honored by school districtManatee School District volunteers honored at Tuesday’s 2010 Outstanding School Volunteer Awards luncheon were:Tia Albrecht, Braden River Elementary; Irene Albritton, Myakka City Elementary; Valerie Beechy, MTI; Brittani Bomar, Williams Elementary; Mickey Boughton, Tara Elementary; Judy Brown, Tillman Elementary; Stephen Brownfield, Bayshore H.S.; Allison Childress, Ballard Elementary; Betty Cox, Williams Elementary;Flossie Dolan, Sea Breeze Elementary; Rebecca Doll, Abel Elementary; Moises Garcia, Abel Elementary; Donna Gates, Rowlett Elementary; Marilyn Godfrey, Southeast H.S.; Ben Harris, Bashaw Elementary;Michael Haslem, Abel Elementary; Olga Heiden, Harlee Middle; Juliane Hill, Tillman Elementary; Fatima Johnson, Tillman Elementary; Sharon Kawecki, Manatee Elementary; Betty Keller, Witt Elementary; Debbie Kline, Myakka Elementary; Sharon Krueger, Tillman Elementary; Karen Lanese, Palm View Elementary; Diane Lang, Palmetto Elementary; Diane LaPointe, Tillman Elementary; Bonita Macias, Wakeland Elementary;Cheryl Maddox, Bashaw Elementary; Donna McCrane, Witt Elementary; Laurel McVaugh, Haile Middle; Linda Nash, Southeast H.S.; Stacie Nelson, Myakka Elementary; Elsie Nolan, Bayshore H.S.; Eric Nolting, Sea Breeze Elementary; Roger Proulx, Bayshore High; Courtnei Smith, Southeast H.S.; Jorge, Sotomayor, Witt Elementary; Cheryl Vafiades, Sea Breeze Elementary; Christine Walsh, Wakeland Elementary; Kim Walters, Williams Elementary; Melissa Watrobsky, Wakeland Elementary; Nancy Beal, Williams Elementary; Alison Cooper, Williams Elementary;and Linda Wood, Bayshore Elementary.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, Fl. 34206 or e-mail him at Please include a phone number for verification.