Woman receives AARP community service award
Some say the best things in life can come from an unlikely source, and those involved in the Reading Buddies program experience that weekly.
When Abington resident Patricia Quigg began 5HDGLQJ BuGGLHV — D QRQSURfiW RUJDQL]DWLRQ — in 1968, she had no idea that it would be a success decades later.
For more than 40 years, Quigg has worked with children and the elderly with a desire to see them connect and learn from one another. What may seem like an unlikely pairing to most people, Quigg said “just made sense” in her eyes.
Reading Buddies involves approximately 17 Philadelphia public schools and senior citizen homes. Nearly 300 adults and 200 students from second through fourth grade are currently involved in the program, she said.
Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, children from various inner-city schools leave the classroom for an hour to meet with an elderly, adult mentor at a nearby senior citizen home. In that hour, the mentors help the mentee with reading and other related assignments.
The program starts at the beginning of each school year and goes until June.
“[Senior citizens] have so much to give through their life experiences and the children love hearing about it,” said Quigg in an interview.
In a similar way, she said that students offer the mentors a sense of youth and vitality.
“They just love being around the children,” Quigg said. “They make them feel a part of the world and stretch their minds to think in different ways. The mentees receive better quality of life, because it gives them something to do and look forward to.”
Quigg’s passion and service to the Reading Buddies program has not gone unrecognized.
In October she received the Pennsylvania 2012 AARP Andrus Award for Community Service — the association’s most prestigious volunteer award — at a special ceremony in Harrisburg.
Named after AARP founder Ethel Percy Andrus, the community service award honors those who embody the organization’s mission “of enhancing the quality of life for all as we age.”
“The award acts as a symbol to members and the public that we can all work together for positive social change,” said AARP Pennsylvania Volunteer State President Jim Palmquist in a press release. “Patricia’s tireless dedication to the Reading Buddies program serves as an inspira- tion, and makes her a particularly worthy recipient of this award.”
Quigg said she was nominated for the award by a friend and was excited that she stood out among 40 other applicants.
“I was surprised and happy to humbly accept the award,” she said. “The award means a lot. Its recognition for all the volunteers. They are the ones that make the program work.”
Before launching Reading Buddies, Quigg worked as a biologist for a pharmaceutical company for many years. Reading Buddies is far different from her previous job, but Quigg said she loves her work.
“I enjoy the volunteers I’ve met over the years and receiving smiles of gratitude from the children,” she said.
One of the things Quigg said she enjoys most, is seeing the how the mentors interact with the children.
“, fiQG PyVHOI LQVSLUHG Ey WKH PHQWRUV,” VKH said. “Most of the children in the program are African American and the majority of the mentors DUH wKLWH. $W fiUVW , VDw VRPH RI WKH PHQWRUV NHHS their distance, but toward the end of the program many of them [opened up]. One woman took her mentee to the ballet.
“This program has helped soften hearts — it’s social change at its core.”