By Christina Dozier
Originally published in the Florida Times-Union
Helping others is second nature to Tammy Wiggins.
From the Special Olympics to participating in various book drives and donations, Wiggins enjoys serving her community — especially organizations supporting children.
It is this dedication that led her to volunteer for the United Way of Northeast Florida.
She initially became involved with United Way through her employer, NGA Human Resources. Wiggins was an ambassador for NGA’s United Way campaign, during which she learned of ReadingPals and was immediately captivated.
The ReadingPals initiative connects a volunteer with a pair of preschoolers for 30 minutes a week to read books and develop the skills needed for their success in kindergarten.
“I’ve always had a passion for books and reading. I was delighted to share this passion with kids,” Wiggins said.
“I am a big believer in books being the foundation for children to explore, learn and increase their knowledge regarding everything from letters and numbers to colors,” she said.
Even after three years with ReadingPals, Wiggins has as much — if not more — enthusiasm and excitement about the program as she did when she began.
“I’ve become addicted to participating in the sessions. I look forward to planning and meeting with the kids each week. I don’t just simply read to them, sometimes I sing, do voices, we dance, play games. … I try to make reading fun and memorable for them,” she explained.
“I always get so much out of my participation in ReadingPals, much more than I give,” Wiggins said.
“When I first started, I was paired with a child who did not want to read or have anything to do with books. [During our time together,] he ended up falling in love with the book ‘Buzz Goes the Bee’ and, by the end of the school year, he was reading it on his own. I was so proud, I bought him that book as a gift.”
That is just one example of the sense of pride and accomplishment Wiggins often feels from her involvement in the program.
“I have a definite soft spot for kids. Being able to share something I love with them, while positively impacting their future, is a great feeling!”