Sue Deutsch pulls a canvas bag onto her lap and the preschoolers seated on the carpet for morning meeting scoot closer to her chair.
“You know I always bring friends with me,” she says, and the children nod and smile.
Sue then pulls out Mipchunk and Chipmunk, two adorable stuffed animals. The children cheer. “I’m going to read a book and then pass around my friends. Everyone will get to hug a friend.”
Sue volunteers with the Educational Alliance Preschool at Manny Cantor Center in “Home 308” most Wednesdays. As an active part of Manny Cantor Center’s growing network of volunteers (Fitness Members, senior center members, parents, and even staff), Sue is both an interconnector between the center’s programs and an ambassador to the community at large.
She arrives early so she can help the children settle into their morning table activities. She helps them transition to the carpet for morning meeting, singing and clapping along with the children. After she reads a story and shares her stuffed animals, she helps the children with their next activity.
Sue has been a senior buddy volunteer for three to four years with the preschool. Five years ago, she moved from Milwaukee to the Lower East Side so she could be closer to her son and daughter. Her other son lives in California.
She says, “I like the feel of the Lower East Side. It feels like a village. It’s not so busy as other areas.” Plus, it has the amenities that she likes, such as the library, supermarkets, and the senior center—Educational Alliance’s own Weinberg Center for Balanced Living. In addition to the Educational Alliance, Sue also volunteers at the NORC Senior Center.
From her ease in front of the classroom, one would assume she had a teaching career in Milwaukee, but she helped her community there in another very significant way: For twenty years, she worked as phone counselor for a non-profit organization in the prevention of child and domestic abuse. Prior to that, she had worked for a feminist organization to prevent domestic abuse. In addition to living in Milwaukee, she spent seven years living in Israel, where she met her husband.
Sue is also a writer and has written a children’s book. Previously, she taught writing to seniors, and she now volunteers with Home 308 because, “I love being with children. It’s fun.”
On a recent Wednesday, she read The Hungry Bunny counting book to the children and engaged them in a discussion of their favorite foods. “Do you think the bunny had enough to eat?” she asks.
The teachers, parents and children of Home 308 are grateful for Sue’s sunny presence in the classroom.
Story by Amy Greenhouse
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