Senior Spotlight: School Volunteers Make a Difference

Mary Lou Bartoletti has been volunteering at Sheridan Elementary School for three years. Judy Goddess/Ingleside-Excelsior Light

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We know that volunteering contributes to building better communities and, although maybe with less certitude, that volunteering is good for your health.

I say “less certitude” because it is difficult to determine whether the better health may be attributed to volunteering or whether people who volunteer already enjoy better health.

What we do know is that volunteers report a more positive mood and increased physical and cognitive functioning than those who don’t volunteer. Quite simply, there seems to be a physical benefit to getting outside yourself and helping others.

This year, this column will highlight senior volunteers in our community. I’ll be soliciting contacts from civic groups, senior and community programs, schools, libraries and faith communities.

I hope that you, the readers, will send me names of senior volunteers who are making a difference in our community.

School Volunteers:

Over 500 San Franciscans volunteer in the public schools at every grade level, from pre-kindergarten through high school.

Volunteers assist in classrooms, work one-on-one with students, help staff the school library, facilitate student clubs, assist with homework — whatever it takes to help make the San Francisco schools work. Volunteers commit from one hour a week to however hours they’re willing to work.

The process for becoming a school volunteer is relatively simple: complete the application which includes listing references, be fingerprinted and test negative for TB, and attend an information session.

If everything checks out, the volunteer is ready to be placed. Some volunteers are interested in volunteering in a specific school or neighborhood; others are willing to go wherever needed. School Volunteers offers training in how to talk with teachers and students, as well as subject matter workshops: how to teach math or reading, and so on.

“There are opportunities to volunteer in every school in the city in virtually any subject matter area or activity,” San Francisco Education Fund volunteer coordinator Tom Laursen said. “From robotics to skateboarding to math and English, at every grade level, we have teachers who would love to have your help.”

Mary Lou Bartoletti’s has volunteered at Sheridan Elementary School for three years after she retired from the State Department. For the first two years, she volunteered in fourth and then fifth grade. This year she’s volunteering in a mixed third-forth grade class.

“I knew I wanted to contribute. I wanted to volunteer with students and I wanted to volunteer in math,” Bartoletti said.

Choosing a school was easy. Bartoletti’s sister, an instructional reform facilitator, splits her time between Sheridan and Commodore Sloat.

“Sheridan is a hidden gem; they’re very diverse; the teachers seems really good. Dina Edwards, the principal, has been here for 20 years. Best of all they needed me. It’s really rewarding when a student has a breakthrough, I feel I’m doing something worthwhile.”

Grateful smiles from the students when she helps them solve a problem, is also a big dividend.

School Volunteers is always looking for more volunteers. If you are interested, contact the San Francisco Education Fund at (415) 695-5400 or visit

Dignity Fund Update:

As readers of this column know, the November passage of Proposition I, the Dignity Fund, secured increased funding for senior services and ushered in a new era of planning for services for seniors and adults living with disabilities.

This fall, the Department of Aging and Adult Services, will hold one informational meeting in each supervisorial district to gather input from the community on the current state of services and to begin to answer the questions on what is and isn’t working, and the challenges in reaching the people who need these services.

This is only the first among several outreach efforts DAAS will conduct over the next several months as it seeks to develop its plan for disbursing Prop. I funds.

These are important meetings that all of us — seniors, adults with disabilities, relatives, friends and caregivers — should attend.

The District 11 forum will be held on Saturday, Oct. 28, 10 a.m. – noon at the OMI Senior Center, 65 Beverly St.

For more information and a list of the forums in other districts, please contact Melissa McGee,, 415-355-6782.

Senior Spotlight columnist Judy Goddess can be reached at or (415) 759-1994.

Original community journalism takes money, time and hard work. You can now support the Light on Patreon. Visit to sign up.

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