Cofer named volunteer of the year

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 13, 2019

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By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools

Tammy Cofer has been volunteering at Meadowlark Elementary for nine years. Some weeks, she might spend 10 hours at the school.

She started when her oldest son, Elijah — who is now in eighth grade — was in kindergarten. Her youngest son, Adam, is now in third grade.

She contributes to Meadowlark Elementary in many ways. She teaches American Sign Language to kindergarten students. As a reading buddy on Tuesdays, she helps kindergartners and first-graders become stronger readers.

Through the PTA, she keeps up with the bins where people can donate supplies for teachers. She organizes the information folders that go home with students each week. As a room mom for Adam’s class, she helps organize celebrations and coordinates volunteers coming into the class.

“If the media center needs me, I help check out books and put books back,” she said.

She plays the piano. So, if piano playing is called for at the school, she is there to do it. No work is beneath her. If a teacher needs some pencils sharpened, she is happy to do that.

It’s all work that she loves doing.

“It’s on my heart to do,” Cofer said. “I love helping others and being around children.”

On May 31, the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Council of PTAs recognized all that she does by naming her its Judy Mountjoy Volunteer of the Year for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

Established in 2000, the PTA’s Mountjoy Award is named for a retired teacher and guidance counselor who has devoted countless hours as a volunteer.

The award was announced Friday night before a basketball game at which students, their families, and members of the staff were working — and playing — together to raise money for a teacher dealing with serious health issues.

Mountjoy and Donald Dunn, a member of the PTA Council’s board, were on hand. When they stepped onto the court, Mountjoy talked about some of the ways in which Cofer serves the school, before saying, “It is my honor to introduce a great lady who is priceless to Meadowlark Elementary for sharing her gifts, being passionate about teaching American Sign Language and being an asset to the Meadowlark Elementary PTA, her school and community.”

Cofer had no idea the she was going to receive the award. No subterfuge was necessary to get her there, though. When she learned that she could help out at the game, she had volunteered to be there.

“I was just coming tonight because I thought they needed me,” Cofer said later.

Before the announcement was made, Dunn talked about how important the work that all volunteers do.

“We want to thank all the volunteers,” he said.

Singling out Cofer to honor, he said, it is a way to recognize not only her work but also the work that all the volunteers do that makes a positive difference in every school every day.

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Although Elijah has moved on to middle school, he still comes back to Meadowlark Elementary to help his mother while earning volunteer hours with the Crosby Scholars program.

Even after Adam heads to middle school, Cofer envisions continuing to volunteer at the school.

“I love that school,” she said. “I am still going to be there.”

Cofer went to New Hope Bible College in Winston-Salem and to the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. Wanting to be able to connect with people who are deaf or hard of hearing, she learned American Sign Language.`

“I wanted to be part of that community as well,” she said.

In addition to volunteering at Meadowlark, Cofer serves as a volunteer firefighter with the Rural Hall Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department.

She started doing that when she was 14.

After she was injured in a fire and could not speak for a time, her American Sign Language skills enabled her to communicate with others.

Being injured affected her desire to keep serving in no way whatsoever.

“Quit is not in my vocabulary,” she said.

The family goes to Hilltop Baptist Church in Pinnacle. There, Cofer teaches Sunday school, leads the youth choir and plays the piano.

“I love it,” she said. “I love being around people and helping them. It makes me feel really good.”