Bush honors Alaska volunteer

In 16 months, woman has devoted 575 hours to teaching literacy

Posted: Wednesday, August 06, 2008

FAIRBANKS - The President's Volunteer Service awardee, Caroline Wolf, left the welcoming ceremony for the President and Laura Bush at Eielson Air Force Base before the speechmaking was over Monday afternoon.

She had a volunteer shift in Fairbanks to fill.

"The ever-committed volunteer," is how Literacy Council of Alaska Executive Director Mike Kolasa describes Wolf, an Americorp volunteer serving with the LCA Adult Literacy Program.

Wolf was greeted by the president soon after he alighted from Air Force One, and he called over his wife to chat with Wolf about her work as a volunteer at the local literacy council before presenting her with the President's Volunteer Service Award.

The award is given to a local volunteer as President Bush travels to various spots in the United States. He has, according to the White House, met with more than 650 volunteers since March 2002.

Wolf said the first lady, who has a real passion for literacy, was pleased to know there was an active literacy council in Alaska.

In turn, Wolf explained to the presidential couple that she was just one of many deserving volunteers active throughout Alaska.

"I think it is a great honor to represent all the other wonderful volunteers in the state," Wolf said in an interview after receiving the honor.

According to Kolasa, Wolf has devoted 575 hours in the past 16 months teaching English and helping people from 34 different countries learn everyday skills including how to fill out a check, call the police or read a newspaper.

"Caroline has a compassionate heart for people and has a wonderful ability to connect with people and give them a doorway to enter our community," Kolasa said.

"She's a fun-loving individual and has a heart for teaching and education and allowing people to succeed and meet their own educational goals," he said.

Previous to moving to Fairbanks, Wolf lived and worked in Barrow for 20 years in education and public health.

As an Americorps volunteer, Wolf also has volunteered 200 hours with Alaska Health Fair Inc., where she performs vision and hearing screenings locally and in outlying communities. Beyond that, she devotes her free time volunteering around Fairbanks at Creamer's Field and the Shakespeare Festival.

"She's an amazing woman," said Phyllis Tugman-Alexander, a coordinator for Alaska Health Fair Inc. "She has a heart of gold. She's the quintessential aging hippie. She got a tattoo when she was 60."

Volunteering has been a way of life for Wolf since she was a youngster.

"My dad was in the Army, and he taught us how lucky we were to be American and how important it was to give something back," Wolf said. "We all looked at volunteering as a way to support our country."

Now in her 60s, Wolf has dedicated some part of each decade of her adult life to volunteering.

When she was in her 20s, she served as an Americorps volunteer; In her 30s, she volunteered in a coal mining town in Kentucky for a summer; In her 40s, she was a Peace Corps volunteer for 2½ years in Morocco; In her 50s, she taught English as a volunteer in a church program off the coast of Honduras.

Wolf hasn't decided what she will volunteer for in her 70s, but she is excited thinking about the many prospects.

"I have a lot of fun helping people," she said.

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