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Volunteers’ big impact

Would you fill a full-time job on a volunteer basis for 20 years?
Not many people would, not even for their favorite causes. But Phyllis Martin is not like other people.
Martin stepped down this week after serving 20 years without pay as director of the Rowan County Literacy Council. This was the way she decided to spend her time after retiring from Belk in 1994 — leading the council and tutoring adults.
A United Way agency, the Literacy Council trains tutors to help people 16 and older with basic literacy skills and English as a second language. The students Martin has tutored were plenty smart, she said; they’d been working around their reading difficulties for years. Finally they decided to fill the gap in their education, and Martin and the Literacy Council were there to help.
The Literacy Council provides an invaluable community service, one that should be incorporated into the local push to improve the literacy skills of public school students. At the recent Literacy Summit, the need to help students’ parents increase skills also came up. Rowan Cabarrus Community College has basic adult education and other courses to address that need. The Literacy Council could add yet another component to this collaboration, serving people who need even more fundamental help.
Also honored for volunteerism recently was Tippie Miller, a tireless supporter of Rowan Regional Medical Center — both before and after the hospital became part of Novant — and has been a major fundraiser for the Glen Kiser Hospice House and Rowan Helping Ministries. Miller was named volunteer of the year at the 2014 Charlotte Business Journal’s Excellence in Health Care Awards luncheon.
Rick Parker, foundation director for Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, nominated Miller, but many would give an amen to the award. At the dedication of Rowan Helping Ministries’ new facility, banker Paul Fisher gave credit where it was due. “If you want to blame all of this wonderful mess today on somebody, pick on Tippie Miller,” Fisher said. She helped lure him and other major donors to a meeting at the overcrowded shelter in March 2011 to request their help in building a new shelter. The $5.8 million they raised has provided the space RHM needs to carry out its important work.
Congratulations and thank you to these two dedicated volunteers. They make Rowan County a better place to live.

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