Terry Matthews, Volunteer Services Coordinator for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!” After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said “I made a difference for that one.” ~ Loren Eiseley
Terry Matthews is a nominee for our People of Prominence series. Terry is in charge of recruiting, training and managing volunteers who serve throughout WS/FCS. She works tirelessly with social, civic and local organizations to develop partnerships and utilize volunteers for the local school system.
Sitting with Terry gives one the indelible impression that volunteering and giving back to a community is the ultimate gift of love and selfless devotion.
Tell us about your foray into the field of community service?
After graduating from Winston-Salem State University, I began a career with the YMCA as an Afterschool Counselor and Day Camp Director. During my 26 years of working for the Y, I had the opportunity to serve others in many capacities. One of the recurring themes throughout that career was working with, training and empowering volunteers to help them live their passion through meaningful volunteering.
In 2020, during the pandemic, I transitioned into a job with Hospice of Rockingham County coordinating volunteers for people at the end of life’s journey. Recruiting caring volunteers to support people dealing with life-limiting illness was some of the most meaningful work that I have done in my life. Although this work was rewarding, it was also the most challenging, because each day you knew that patience may have completed their life’s journey (passed away) before you returned to work the next day.
What is important to you when considering the work you do?
I am grateful to be able to match people’s passions and skill sets to volunteer opportunities in our schools and with a few of our local non-profit community partners. I am indebted to people who choose to share their most valuable commodity – time with others. In my opinion, a person’s donation of their time is more valuable than money. It is true selfless currency.
During my two years with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, I have had the opportunity to engage many parents, community members, businesses and organizations in meaningful volunteering. Most recently, WS/FCS in partnership with Food Lion, Second Harvest Food Bank, Forsyth Backpack, Renfro Brands and many other partners provided 450 meal kits to families and individual students dealing with housing insecurity. This effort involved more than 125 volunteers who packaged meals, sorted packages and delivered food to our schools for distribution. This is one of many examples of how volunteers have a positive impact in our schools and create equity for our students.
Why is it important to volunteer?
Anyone can have a positive impact in the community by donating their time. If you want to help others through volunteering, I recommend that you consider the following. Think about what you enjoy doing, what you are good at and how you can make a positive difference in someone’s life. Then, ask yourself if you have any free time? Even an hour can make a world of difference.
What has made you proud as a community organizer for the youth?
I am so proud of the chances I have given to others to help children dream beyond their experiences. There is a transformation that can take place when you provide mentorship or assistance to a child to help them see there is a world of good far beyond their daily personal struggles. The community-at-large provides something invaluable to our children who need it the most.
What do people need to understand about what your needs are in terms of volunteer services?
My call to action to each of you reading this story is to reach out to a local non-profit, the school system, homeless shelter, etc., and ask them how you can be of assistance. Our children, families and the community at-large need you!
Just that we need people to use their passion to make a difference. We need mentors, tutors and reading buddies. By 2025, WS/FCS has a goal of 90% of students reading at grade level by third grade.
We need adults to team up with kids through our Reading Warrior program to make this goal a reality. A population that is empowered through education is one not to be stopped. We stand ready to engage volunteers in our pursuit of furthering students’ literacy.
To sign up to be a Reading Warriors tutor or any other type of volunteer for WS/FCS, go to wsfcsvolunteers.com to fill out a volunteer application to be eligible to volunteer in WS/FCS.