Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Giving Back Ellen Wiss; Long-Time Volunteer Takes Students under Her Wing Woman with Passion for Children's Education Receives Big 'Thank You'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Giving Back Ellen Wiss; Long-Time Volunteer Takes Students under Her Wing Woman with Passion for Children's Education Receives Big 'Thank You'

Article excerpt

Byline: Lindsey Kilbride

When people volunteer, they can change lives - including their own. Each week in Reason, we will highlight a volunteer's story of giving back and how that selfless act was a true revelation. The volunteer project is a collaboration among the Times-Union, the University of North Florida, the United Way of Northeast Florida and HandsOn Jacksonville.

Ponte Vedra Beach resident Ellen Wiss did not expect to be sitting in her car on a weekday in June 2012 with tears of joy gliding down her cheeks. Her tears rolled off of her chin onto a stack of handwritten and decorated cards from students of George Washington Carver Elementary.

Wiss has been volunteering for about 25 years. Now she spends more hours a week volunteering than at her day job in real estate. Her true passion is helping children learn. Wiss believes that a top-notch education is the key to success in our community. From sponsoring a teacher through Teach for America, to personally tutoring students, she has taken on many projects.

One such project was taking the students at George Washington Carver under her wing. Along with teachers, staff and other volunteers, she had helped create the school's first book fair and an end-of-the-year carnival.

When she originally pulled the manila envelope from her mailbox and saw the elementary school's return address she thought about saving the letters for later. She thought of the meeting for which she was running late and how selfish and indulgent it would be to treat herself to the letters.

But she couldn't stop herself. She sat in her vehicle and went through every single card. There were easily 100, each special and personal.

A teal card with green and purple writing thanked her. "You're like a mother to me. You just don't know how much I can thank you right now. …

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