Paying it Forward: Pair active in area schools

Maybe destiny played a small hand in the meeting of Marietta residents and longtime Washington Elementary school volunteers Lori Uhrig and Amy Ferguson, both 51.

After all, when Ferguson moved onto Uhrig’s street 18 years ago, she was looking for a way to volunteer at North Hills Elementary School, where her oldest son attended, and still be able to look after her younger children.

Fortunately, Uhrig was already a volunteer at the school, where her oldest son also attended. In fact, Uhrig and Ferguson each have three children who are all very close in age.

“When our older kids were younger, we would volunteer on opposite days so we could take turns babysitting the younger children,” recalled Uhrig.

Though fate may have brought them together, it has been their shared love of volunteer work that has kept the pair active in area schools for more than 20 years.

Though their youngest children have now moved on from Washington Elementary School, both women still act as classroom helpers in Robin Haught’s kindergarten class and Sally Weihl’s first grade class. They also volunteer once a week in the second grade classroom of Putnam Elementary teacher Kelly McIntosh.

“These two are indispensable,” said Haught. “It’s so incredibly helpful to have an extra set of hands.”

While Haught worked with children in the classroom Tuesday, Ferguson and Uhrig spent one-on-one time with the youngsters, teaching them how to perform one of their daily “jobs”-learning activities they have to complete every day.

Tuesday’s new job was putting together puzzles. On the backs of the puzzles were a capital and lower case letter that correspond to the folder in which the puzzle and answer key are stored.

Spending that time with the eager young learners is what keeps the women coming back year after year, said Uhrig, who was a teacher in Maryland before she moved to Marietta 23 years ago.

“We help out with kindergarten registration too, so we get to meet all the school’s incoming kindergartners from the very beginning,” she said.

Because they spend so much time with the youngsters, Uhrig and Ferguson sometimes wind up being quite the celebrities when they are out in public.

“What is really cute is when you’re at the grocery store during the school year and the little kids will run up and hug you. That’s our pay,” said Ferguson.

The classrooms are not the only place where the two women lend their services. Ferguson also volunteers in the Marietta High School office once a week and organizes the Scholastic book orders for Washington Elementary, Marietta Middle School and certain grades at Putnam Elementary School.

Uhrig also manages her 17-year-old son’s club soccer team-the Fury Soccer Club of Morgantown. Among other things, Uhrig is responsible for signing the team up for tournaments, booking their lodging and making sure team members are up to date on fees.

Both women are also involved in the Marietta Tiger Athletic Boosters.

That fierce dedication to a variety of causes has also rubbed off on their children. Next week, both of the women’s youngest children will begin tutoring through Marietta High School’s National Honor Society. In fact the tutoring program was started by Uhrig’s middle child.

With the school year just starting, the two women have a lot to look forward to this year, noted Ferguson.

“The kids, they’re just so excited about the whole process. It’s amazing to watch them from the start of the year and to see how much they’ve learned,” she said.