Strong Start Volunteers make a difference in the lives of children in our community, giving a gift of time and talent that is truly priceless. This year, the 15th annual Volunteer Impact Awards, sponsored by the Volunteer Action Centre Waterloo Region, honoured one of our exceptional Letters, Sounds and Words™ Volunteer Site Co-ordinators and Volunteer Coaches as part of National Volunteer Week celebrations.

Strong Start is delighted to congratulate and applaud Sharon Stephens who was awarded the Caring Program Award which recognizes a volunteer in a direct service role. Sharon was selected from 52 impressive nominations, including individuals and groups who, like Sharon, have given so generously to help strengthen the Waterloo Region community.

Sharon is a true champion and advocate for children in the Cedarbrae community. As a Strong Start Volunteer Coach at Cedarbrae P.S., she supports children in learning to read, celebrating each small step in the journey. Children who work with her develop not only early literacy skills, but also confidence and self-esteem, and they come to think of themselves as successful learners. As part of her role as Site Co-ordinator for the Strong Start program, Sharon also recruits and organizes volunteers, sets up the volunteer schedules, works collaboratively with teachers, completes pre and post assessments to measure children’s progress, and monitors the success for each and every child and volunteer. Strong Start Volunteers return year after year at Cedarbrae P.S., in part because Sharon ensures each person feels valued and successful. Under her guidance, the program has had a substantial impact, supporting over 50 children in the past three years and 30 volunteers. It is Sharon’s genuine empathy, kindness, and intuitive understanding of a child’s needs that sets Sharon apart as a volunteer and a trusted leader in the school community. Sharon also generously gives her time as a volunteer to Nutrition for Learning, too.

Sharon is an outstanding individual who contributes to our Sunnydale community in Waterloo,” shared Rebecca Bearinger Fay, Vice Principal of Cedarbrae P.S. “She exemplifies the extraordinary commitment to volunteering, the lasting impression on our community, and the passion and inspiration that this award celebrates. Our school and our neighbourhood is better because of Sharon Stephens.

On behalf of all of us at Strong Start, we extend our heartfelt congratulations to Sharon as the recipient of the Caring Program Award and thank her for her commitment to children in our community.

During this National Volunteer Week– and every week throughout the year – we salute the thousands of dedicated volunteers who support our young learners to develop a foundation for literacy through the Letters, Sounds and Words program. We couldn’t do this without you.

To learn more about our programs and how you can help make a difference in the life of a child, please visit the Get Involved section of our website.