Volunteer of the Month

Sept. 2020 Volunteer of the Month
Posted on 09/08/2020
Sept. 2020 Volunteer of the MonthAt West Central Elementary School in Joplin, Joanne Wills is more than a familiar face -- she's family.

"Mrs. Wills has been a fixture here for many years," said West Central Principal Bret Ingle. "She's a huge part of our school and we love having her as a volunteer."

Since 2002, Mrs. Wills has been volunteering at West Central by helping teachers and students in any way possible. She also volunteered at Irving Elementary from 2000-2002. And while there was no volunteer tracking system prior to the Joplin tornado in 2011, District staff have estimated that Mrs. Wills has volunteered more than 10,000 total hours of service at West Central. She made herself indispensable, often arriving to the school with the cafeteria staff at 5:30 a.m. and working until 10 a.m. every day of the school week. She laminated and cut out papers, forms, and tags. She made thousands of copies, counted and collated papers and fliers to send home with students, and helped kindergartners learn to tie their shoes. Sometimes, she even volunteered to help supervise field trips. 

Mrs. Wills began officially recording her volunteer hours in late 2014. Since then, she's generously given more than 4,000 hours of her time, and she’s had no plans of slowing down any time soon. Then COVID-19 hit. 

After a doctor's order that Mrs. Wills, who recently turned 90 years old, shouldn't risk her health to volunteer inside the school building (and a district-wide moratorium of on-campus volunteering), staff at West Central made a plan. Not only had they come to rely on the service of Mrs. Wills to help their classrooms run smoothly, they knew Mrs. Wills relied on the work to stay active and engaged in the community she adores. So instead of working in the school building now, several teachers at West Central have begun delivering work to Mrs. Wills’ front porch. At home, she’s able to do the work she loves, knowing it’s benefiting a neighborhood of children and school staff that mean the world to her.

One West Central teacher shared that "any time you request help, she (Mrs. Wills) asks questions to make sure she understands exactly what needs to be done, and then answers with, 'Sure, honey!'"

When the work is finished, Mrs. Wills is happy to pack up the materials and drive them back to the school. It’s a simple system with a big payoff. And it’s a continuation of a volunteering spirit that has benefited nearly 20 years of Joplin students.

For her unflagging optimism, her decades of dedication, and her joyful heart for helping the students at West Central succeed, Joanne Wills is the Bright Futures Joplin Volunteer of the Month. Mrs. Wills, we send our thanks and appreciation! Please know that you’ve made an indelible impact on the lives of countless Joplin students, and we are in awe of your legacy of service and love. Thank you!