Community, Creswell

Volunteers team up to feed kids’ minds, bodies this summer

IRC volunteer Val Moran gets enthusiastic assistance from Paisley Bielskis (left) and Kali Roberts in identifying objects as she begins reading a book to children in Holt Park last Tuesday during Creslane IRC’s Summer Reading in the Park program. Gini Davis/The Creswell Chronicle

Want to help build a better future? Nourish children’s minds, bodies and spirits.
This summer, Creslane’s Intergenerational Reading Collaboration (IRC) and Food for Lane County are teaming up to do just that, weekdays in Holt Park. IRC volunteers pull up a chair, spread out a picnic blanket and read to children Tuesdays and Thursdays, in conjunction with Food for Lane County’s Summer Lunch Program, which distributes free meals to kids 18 and under weekdays from noon to 1 p.m.
IRC volunteers’ dedication extends beyond the school year because ”kids that read all year around not only maintain their reading skills but keep getting better,” said co-Team Leader and Reading in the Park point person, Eric Cullander.
Incoming fifth graders Kinslee Roberts and Colden Clark are living proof. Both benefited from four years of IRC reading and now enjoy helping to distribute free books – courtesy of a Creswell First! grant – to kids who listen to stories read by IRC volunteers in Holt Park while enjoying their free lunches.
”I worked with (Kinslee) when she was in third grade,” Cullander said. ”She was a struggling reader and made great progress that year.”
”It helped me get interested in more books and the people were really, really nice,” Kinslee said of her IRC experience.
Both Kinslee and Colden say they started reading more on their own after working with IRC.
Some of the first books to capture Kinslee’s interest for independent reading were the Magic Treehouse books, but she also likes the Goosebumps series, she said.
Colden concurred about Goosebumps: ”Basically, all I read is horror,” he said, adding that, like Kinslee, his IRC experience ”helped me read faster and better and get interested in more books.”
Both say they’ve become more outgoing and confident as well.
”I got better at reading (out loud) with people,” Colden said.
”I got less nervous around people,” Kinslee said.
And what encouragement they would give to a first grader who, like they once were, is a shy, reluctant or struggling reader and is offered the chance to work with IRC?
”Don’t be afraid,” Kinslee said, ”because it can help.”
”I thought I didn’t really like reading, but now I’m reading, reading, reading,” Colden said. ”I read more than 40 books last year – a lot of people did.”
Children receive up to two free books per day for listening to IRC readers in the park. Creswell Library Youth Librarian Nick Caum helps select age-appropriate books to purchase with the Creswell First! grant, ”so there are different books each week to pique the kids’ interest,” said IRC co-Team Leader Laurie Swanson Gribskov.
”We have raised enough money to buy mostly new books,” Cullander added. ”Hopefully they are ‘cool’ books!”
The marriage of summer reading and lunch programs is ideal, because extending both reading and food assistance over the summer promotes children’s intellectual development and school success. According to Food for Lane County’s Programs for Children website, ”Child nutrition is important to every child’s emotional, physical and mental health. Children depend on nutrients to nourish their bodies, provide energy to grow and facilitate cognitive development.”
Serving meals over the summer helps mitigate the food insecurity that may result in the absence of school meal programs, providing Lane County children ”with the food they need to feel healthy and succeed in school.”
Food for Lane County volunteer Jodie Haley of Cottage Grove said between 65 and 125 children are served each weekday in Holt Park.
”It’s great to see so many kids come and enjoy the meals,” she said.
IRC program results consistently demonstrate better academics and an improved school climate, and co-Team Leaders Swanson Gribskov, Cullander and Sue Bowers need more volunteers eager to help make a difference in children’s lives, during the summer and the school year.
For summer reading, ”We’d love more volunteers,” Cullander said. ”That would allow us to perhaps be there more often – and there is a large mobile home park served by the free lunch program in the south of the Creswell area that we can’t get to with our present number of volunteers. My dream is to set up there also.”
During school, Creslane’s 35 IRC volunteers serve about 400 K-3 students – about 100 per grade. Each volunteer works two to three mornings per week and attends weekly team meetings. Substitutes fill in when volunteers are unavailable.
”There is a wonderful esprit de corps among the volunteers and excellent collaboration with the teachers and school administration,” Swanson Gribskov said, noting that United Way ”is so impressed with our work that they are working to replicate the Creslane IRC Reading Program in three other districts via a grant they received.”
With about 80 percent of IRC volunteers expected to return for 2019-20, eight to 10 new volunteers are needed.
Because Creslane’s reading schedule has changed, ”it’s difficult for volunteers to double up on class levels,” Swanson Gribskov said. ”That means we need 16 volunteers each day to cover all the classes during their reading time, five days a week.”
Helping to spark children’s imaginations and open their minds to the many adventures to be had and worlds to be visited through reading ”is easy and fun,” Cullander said in encouraging new volunteers. ”This program promises to make a big difference in the reading skills of all that participate.”

WHAT: Food for Lane County’s Summer Lunch Program
WHERE: Holt Park
WHEN: noon to 1 p.m., M-F, June 24-Aug. 16.
MORE INFO: All meal sites are open to all children ages 2 to 18. Toddlers ages 1 to 2 may also eat when accompanied by a responsible adult. A site supervisor trained and supervised by Food for Lane County will oversee the meal service. A Summer Food Service Program fact sheet is available at:

WHAT: Creslane IRC’s Summer Reading in the Park
WHERE: Holt Park
WHEN: noon to 1 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, June 25-Aug. 23
MORE INFO: Listen to stories read by IRC volunteers while eating lunch and get a free book!
For more about Creslane IRC, go to Creslane Elementary School on the Creswell School District website:
Anyone interested in becoming an IRC volunteer is invited to contact Laurie Swanson Gribskov at [email protected].



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