Pam Dalitz: Anchoring Herself & Students Through Volunteer Work
Welcome back to the POP QUIZ! This is a regular, yet totally unexpected, feature where we ask students, parents, staff, our friends, and partners to answer a few questions about what they are learning, reading, and thinking about. Today we feature CIS volunteer Pam Dalitz, who was recently honored with the 2021 Gulnar Husain Volunteer Award. [If you didn’t get a chance to read about the great work Pam has been doing with CIS both before and during the pandemic, click here for that post. To learn more about Gulnar, read this post, “A Good Life.”]
Pam, a Registered Nurse who retired from Bronson in 2017, became a CIS volunteer at the encouragement of Honoré Salon. [A 2016 Champ recipient, Honoré Salon makes it their business to support kids through CIS. Read more about them here.] Since then, Pam has been volunteering at Spring Valley Center for Exploration. She tutors and provides classroom support, working closely with second grade teacher Ms. Chyna Campbell. When the pandemic hit and schools physically closed, her volunteer work, like so much else, changed dramatically.
We got a chance to meet up with Pam over Zoom.
Alright, Pam: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
How are you holding up during this pandemic?
Physically, I’ve held up well. Emotionally, I’ve ebbed and tide. I’ve wondered at times, “Are we going to make it through this?” Especially when you see the numbers in Michigan going up and up.
I miss traveling and seeing friends. I wonder what things will like as we return to more of a normal routine. I’ve spoken primarily to my dog for the past 14 months. What if I sound all crazy and start growling and barking like a dog when all is said and done?
I miss so much: my Zumba class, Sierra Club trips, outings at nature preserves with others. All of that has been cancelled. Fortunately, I’m staying healthy and going on lots of walks. I always like to walk and hike so have been doing that more than ever. [A Goldendoodle suddenly appears.] This is my walking buddy, Wesley. Wes keeps me active and healthy.
What are you learning about yourself during this time?
I’m realizing how important this volunteer work is to me. Volunteering puts me on a schedule and helps to anchor me. This feels a bit selfish as the kids give back in ways they don’t even realize. They are so resilient. The things that come out of their mouths are so honest. Second graders are wonderful! You can’t help but fall in love with them. They can be hilarious and goofy and just so fun to be around. They can also change you … One day, a student was reading a book aloud to me about caterpillars and pronounced it ‘capetillar.’ I will never again look at a caterpillar the same way.
What does volunteering with CIS in the virtual world look like? And how is it going?
Volunteering has changed a lot! In June, I started delivering food to those parents who couldn’t make the food drops at the school. That group expanded as the pandemic wore on. I was delivering over 20 food packets every Tuesday and Thursday to students. During this school year, that’s ranged anywhere from six to 15.
I’ve recently been organizing supplies for next school year. Some students really benefit by having something to occupy their hands when they are learning. So I’ve been packing up playdoh and other tension relief toys for students to use in the new school year. Radiant Church, as part of their “Big Give” has made these supplies possible. These “sensory kits” will be going to all of the Spring Valley classrooms. [To learn more about how this faith-based partnership—and 2014 Champ!—check out this post.]
What I love about volunteering with Communities In Schools is that the work is very diverse. I’m not doing the same thing every time. I’m not that volunteer you want typing a letter up or helping with mailing. That is not going to work for you or me. I like that I can be active. It’s very rewarding and engaging.
What are you currently reading?
I’ve gotten into Gregory Boyle recently. I just finished Tattoos of the Heart and am now reading Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship. One of Boyle’s clients combined all these expressions so instead of “barking up a tree” and “preaching to the choir” it was “barking to the choir” so he named his book after what this client said.
I also just read Fat Girl by KL Montgomery. It’s about a journalist and how she ends up moving back in with her family. It’s a very funny story with deep insights.
What is a question you recently asked or perhaps have been asking a lot lately?
Why did we let the Covid virus get so out of hand?
What is your favorite word or phrase right now?
I find myself overusing the word amazing. It’s amazing that we have a vaccine. It’s amazing that we had a riot at the United States Capital. It’s amazing how we’ve gone from a patriotic and reverent country to taking computers off of senators’ desks and killing each other. We are far from the peaceful hippy era.
Have you taken up anything—a hobby or habit—that you want to keep doing once this pandemic is over?
I got into learning about perennial gardening. I’ve basically re-designed my garden. It looks pretty good. And I’ve enjoyed that. It’s not a manicured yard by any means. Let’s stress the part that it’s not manicured! I also realized how badly I need to clean my basement.
Did you get your basement cleaned and organized during this time?
I haven’t touched it. I just know it needs cleaning! However, I’ve been cooking a lot more and trying to develop some top-notch culinary skills.
I’ve learned things like coriander is cilantro or is it that coriander is not cilantro. Whatever! While I’ve learned interesting cooking tips, I haven’t put them to use. I’m still really pretty bad at cooking.
You are so funny. Where do you get your sense of humor?
My humor comes from both parents but especially my dad … Although, I have to say my mom and I used to send a lima bean back and forth through the mail to each other but then it got lost so we stopped that … My dream was to do stand-up comedy, you know … Hey, we should do a stand-up routine for CIS!
[Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids deftly changes the subject by popping another question.] What is it like to work with CIS Site Coordinator Martha Serio?
I love working with Martha! She is no-nonsense and has a let’s-get-this-done approach. She’s a little person with such a strong “can do it” attitude. I love her. She follows through on everything, doing what she says she’ll do, whether it’s getting kids clothing, a tutor, you name it. At the same time, she is not afraid to tell them when they’re out of line. She’s street-wise but also has the softest heart in the world.
Thank you, Pam, for once again hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids. [We popped a quiz on Pam a few years back and that interview is here.]
Tags: CIS, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, Gulnar Husain Volunteer Award, Honore Salon, Martha Serio, Pam Dalitz, Radiant Church, Spring Valley Center for Exploration, supporting students during the pandemic