For 12 years, Lee-Ann Scott has led our OttawaReads and Ottawa Volunteers in Education programs. Last year alone, these programs filled 2,083 volunteer positions in 148 Ottawa schools!
“Imagine a day where everyone you meet is dedicated to helping children learn and become the best they can be. Now multiply that by 12 years!” says Lee-Ann, now 1 month into her retirement. “Leaving behind the many friendships and relationships created over the years has been the most difficult part of leaving ONFE.”
Many years ago, someone special to Lee-Ann helped her find her passion to help other people, which in turn inspired her to work with people to find their own joy in helping others.
“I have seen volunteers of all ages, backgrounds, and cultures, who weren’t sure if they could provide any significant support, find their way and grow confident in their own abilities. Newcomers especially think they may not have enough language skills to help in the classroom, but teachers are thrilled to have them help translate for newcomer students overwhelmed by the changes in their lives.”
When asked about her own volunteer experiences, Lee-Ann told a story of a young boy with a learning challenge that affected his writing abilities. Lee-Ann was assigned to help him understand the assistive technologies that were available to him on a Chromebook.
“After a few attempts at using his voice to write a story and seeing success, he filled two pages with the most amazing creative story. He looked at me and said with utter joy, ‘I can write!’ I will never forget the look on his face, it still brings tears to my eyes.”
We wish Lee-Ann the very best in her retirement, which she plans to spend in Prince Edward County where she will be closer to her aging parents and able to pursue her passion of sheep farming, spinning, weaving, and dyeing wool. She’s volunteering with the local Community Foundation helping to launch a Neighbourhood Small Grants program, volunteering as a reader for County Kids Read, and playing a lot of pickleball.
At the same time as we’re saying farewell to Lee-Ann, we’re giving a warm welcome to our new Program Manager of Volunteer Programs, Heather Kotelniski!
“I like working with volunteers because they are always so passionate about their volunteer work, and wholeheartedly support the organization’s mission and vision,” says Heather.
“Volunteers are genuine, caring, quick to share a laugh and truly want to make their communities better – they push me to do my absolute best and I can’t think of a better group of people to work with. I go home every day inspired by their enthusiasm.”
Heather comes to ONFE from the Kingston Military Family Resource Centre where she was the Volunteer Services Worker. “From our clientele, who were mainly military families, I learned resiliency. Even through the most stressful times, they laugh, they support one another, and they work together to overcome challenges.” Heather is a military spouse herself, and Ottawa is her family’s retirement posting. They are excited to finally be staying put, and Heather is excited about furthering the mission of OVIE and OttawaReads.
“We all have one book from our childhood that we loved, and we still carry its words with us. All children should have that opportunity. The importance of early literacy cannot be understated, and if we can help kids develop a love of reading and become more self-assured, that has long term, positive effects.”