Lisa Barrett is the type of teacher who doesn’t stop caring when the bell rings to end the day.
When the pandemic arrived and the schoolbuses full of children stopped pulling into Dr. Thomas L. Higdon Elementary each morning, Barrett, a kindergarten teacher, felt helpless. She missed seeing her students and she worried about how they were doing.
“I’m a busy person by nature. I always like to be doing something,” she said. “When the pandemic started in March, I found myself with free time.”
A friend and fellow Higdon teacher, Mary Bailey, is a LifeStyles volunteer. Lisa’s cousin, Laura Wade, is also actively involved. So Lisa asked how she could help, too.
“I needed it more than it needed me,” she said. “I wasn’t able to be with my students, and it really allowed me to fill that void.”
She wasted no time making a big impact. Lisa became the captain for the Charles County Cares Cabana in Newburg, helping ensure it was stocked with ready-to-eat meals and groceries for anyone in need. She proudly points out that the Newburg cabana was largely self-sufficient, especially in the beginning, because so many people from the surrounding community kept it stocked with food donations.
Lisa also volunteered to help pack grocery bags for delivery to families who, for one reason or another, were not able to get to the cabana. Her 9- and 12-year-old children helped, and she enlisted her nephews in the effort, too.
Sometimes, Lisa helped make the deliveries and when she would arrive at places like the Thunderbird Motel on US-301 or Aqualand campground, it gave her the opportunity to finally see some of the students she worried about most.
“When I would pull up, they saw my silver Tahoe, they’d all come up and get whatever I had,” she said. “It’s great seeing the students, just laying eyes on them and knowing they’re OK, too. As a teacher, we always worry about what our students are doing when we can’t be with them.”
At Aqualand, she remembers opening the back of her truck and seeing the children flock in her direction. Often she’d bring more than food. Sometimes it was games or puzzles or books.
“Seeing them excited about having new books to read was something that really felt good to me,” she said.
With school back in session now — at least online — Lisa is able to see her students through the computer screen most days. But she is always looking for ways to support LifeStyles and those we serve. And some of the relationships she’s made through volunteering have become lasting friendships.
One of the people who made an impact on Lisa’s life is Theresa Kushner, who helped operate the Newburg Cabana on a daily basis. Lisa said Theresa has become close to her entire family.
They’ll exchange letters regularly, and Theresa will visit and bring goodies for her children and even for the goats that the Barretts raise.
Volunteering, she said, is an eye-opening experience because it reminds you of how much positivity still exists in the world.
“You see so much on social media and it looks like things are so rotten and it looks so negative,” she said. “But you realize there are so many good people out there.”
If you’re interested in volunteering with LifeStyles, we’d love to hear from you. Visit the Volunteer page on our website or call us at 301-609-9900 ext. 225.