Bakers to represent Alaska as Volunteer Family of the Year

HandsOn Network selects family of six for service to AEYC, awards trip to Disney World

Posted: Sunday, January 24, 2010

As reward for two years of dedicated family volunteering, a Juneau household of six was selected as the state's Volunteer Family of the Year and will travel to Disney World next month.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

"We're really proud the Bakers are going to be representing Alaska, because I think they are just the perfect family to demonstrate that volunteerism sprit in our state," said Joy Lyon, executive director of the Association for the Education of Young Children, Southeast Alaska. "As a state, we have a very high percentage of volunteerism, so by all six of them going, they'll see that immediately."

Juneau residents Suzanne and Mark Baker and their four children, Rush, 13, Sierra, 11, Montana, 6, and Keyrin, 5, are excited to have been recognized by HandsOn Network for their two years of service at the AEYC.

"I'm surprised and honored that we got it," Suzanne said. "It's shocking. And it's all thanks to these guys (AEYC) and Joy. We really appreciate it."

Lyon nominated the Bakers for their work in managing the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which started in Juneau three years ago.

"The Bakers have contributed nearly 500 hours toward improving the literacy and love of reading in the 1,200 young children enrolled in Southeast Alaska," Lyon said. "Thanks to them, more than 21,000 books have been delivered to young children. When you think about how much 21,000 books is and that these guys enrolled all of those, ... it's amazing."

Once a week during the school year, the Bakers arrive to enroll new children in the library database, change addresses when children move, and mail out additional materials and invitations to family literacy events.

The Baker children also contribute their personal artwork to the envelopes.

"Families are so excited to receive envelopes in the mail that have been artistically decorated by the Baker family," Lyon said. "The children put stickers on and do all those drawings, and it really makes it special."

All of the Baker children agreed that is the most enjoyable part.

"It's really fun to make the different patterns on the envelopes," Sierra said. "I've learned that it's nice to help others. It feels good, feels exciting."

Suzanne, a stay-at-home mom, said she simply wanted to supplement her children's home-school curriculum with a community service project, but didn't expect their efforts would land them a trip to Disney World.

"I just wanted the kids, especially the older ones, to get involved in volunteering," she said. "But it'll be great to see other families and what they do. It'll be a neat opportunity for the kids to see ... what others are doing."

Suzanne said that since they started volunteering two years ago, the library seems more widespread now.

"It's a widely supported program throughout the community," Lyon agreed. "It's so simple, but it's so powerful. You give kids books, and they will find a way to get them read."

According to Lyon, a child enrolled since birth will have accumulated approximately 60 books through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library by age 5.

"It's a huge impact when they're coming into kindergarten" because every child has the same access to books, Lyon said. "Every week, just knowing that we can depend on the Bakers, has really allowed us to keep offering this program. Volunteering as a family has been a positive experience for everyone."

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library program is available to every child in the community from newborns to 5-year-olds. For more information, contact Joy Lyon at 789-1235 or jlyon@aeyc-sea.org or visit www.aeyc-sea.org.

• Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at kim.andree@juneauempire.com.



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