Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Giving Back Greg Griffin; ReadingPals Volunteer Has the Tools to Connect with Kids

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Giving Back Greg Griffin; ReadingPals Volunteer Has the Tools to Connect with Kids

Article excerpt

Byline: Nancy Winckler-Zuniga

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.

Greg Griffin sat down with his box. It was full of items that he created in his garage to engage the attention of the ReadingPals children he works with at Christ the King early learning center in Arlington. Wooden animals, shapes, letters and two fishing poles complete with magnets on the end were pulled out.

"I just used paint and wood I had in the garage," Griffin said.

After teaching his charges using the fishing poles and their accompanying laminated letter cards, Griffin took it one step further.

"If you're a big fisherman you have to have a boat," Griffin said.

So, he took an appliance box and built the children a boat, complete with a removable sail. Everything comes apart for storage until his next adventure-filled lesson with them.

"My reward is 'Mr. Greg, this is awesome,' " Griffin said. "One child always asks, 'Where's the whale?' We engage as many of the five senses that will help these children learn."

He said that just as a coach has to be aware of each player's grasp of the play, a teacher has to recognize what a child doesn't grasp and know how to guide the child's progress. With his daughter's assistance, he researches and plans teaching strategies that will help 4-year-olds learn to read.

Giving back is a dream that started when he was a boy. His dad coached his baseball team, his family encouraged museum trips and educational opportunities, and his Catholic upbringing instilled a philanthropic spirit. It was all part of a legacy he believes needs to be paid forward.

"I remember wanting to be a parent at age 10," Griffin said. His grandmother had taken in a foster child named Brian. As Griffin watched her nurture and educate him alongside their family, he admired her drive to impart as much as she could in the time that she had him. …

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