Over her 47-year career as an elementary school teacher, Karen Eckelbarger taught thousands of third graders cursive penmanship.
So, who better than this longtime KidWorks volunteer to put her own elegant handwriting skills to work addressing envelopes and short thank you notes from our staff to generous donors and supporters?
Her faithful service behind the scenes is both inspirational and invaluable which is why we nominated her for volunteer of the month at KidWorks.
“I’ve been doing the addressing and short notes twice a year for about three years with about 400 each time,” Karen says. “So, I guess so far that’s more than 2,400. I like to use a felt tip pen for easy movement across the paper. I sort of became an ‘expert,’ proving the old adage that practice makes perfect.
Karen began her teaching career in Fountain Valley in 1968, then taught in Boston, Massachusetts and Fort Pierce, Florida before returning to California in 1978. She worked in Irvine at the same school for 35 years.
“Throughout those 47 years, I taught every grade from kindergarten to sixth grade but my last 25 years were instructing third grade,” Karen says. “Third grade was definitely my favorite grade to teach because the students know how to read and write and still love their teacher. I love working with the children because they love the attention and are so loving and willing to accept help.”
Karen first heard about KidWorks through her church around 2005.
“I helped at the summer program that was held out of a garage,” Karen remembers. “I tried to continue to help one afternoon a week after school started but it was too hard for me to do both teaching during the day and help out at KidWorks. When I retired in June of 2015, volunteering at KidWorks was the first thing on my ‘to do’ list.”
Adds Karen, “I volunteered one afternoon a week helping with the kindergarten through third grades until the COVID pandemic forced in-person programs to temporarily stop. All of the staff and volunteers are so friendly, helpful and professional.”
“We are so blessed to count Karen as one of our treasured volunteers,” says Beckie White, our Manager, Marketing & Communications. “Karen’s decades of experience as a teacher shine through every time she’s in our classrooms. We’re also so grateful that Karen continues to expand her involvement with us, helping with fundraising, prayer walks and more.”
Karen’s deep faith leads her to stay involved with KidWorks in so many ways.
“I was motivated to get involved with KidWorks because I wanted to help kids on a one-to-one basis and being in a Christian environment was very important,” Karen says.” I loved volunteering on Tuesdays because that was the day the children were taught a Bible lesson.”
Karen has also attended our prayer walks and helped out as a hostess this January.
Karen also knows that we rely 100% on outside donations to fund our programs. With that in mind, she recently became involved with KidWorks’ Fund Development Committee and donates a monthly financial gift.
“I want to keep the programs going strong long-term, and a monthly gift is definitely one way to do that,” Karen says.
Karen stays busy in retirement.
In addition to volunteering at KidWorks, her hobbies are sewing, crocheting and other crafts.
“When my daughters were young, I made all of their dresses until third grade when the trend went to wearing more casual attire like pants or shorts to school,” Karen says. “Now I’m using my sewing skills to make skirts and dresses for Operation Christmas Shoebox with a group from my church. I also made small six-inch high stuffed bears for the boxes. During the COVID lockdown I crocheted an abundance of beanies for the Christmas shoe boxes and baby blankets that I donated to local crisis pregnancy centers.”
It’s so inspiring to know that Karen positively impacted thousands of young lives during her 47 years as a teacher—and that she continues to do so with each KidWorks student she meets in our classrooms.
Karen says it best: “My hope for KidWorks is that every child will have the opportunity to expand their education and prepare for the future to be a God-loving citizen.”