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A priceless volunteer: When 'Papa' comes to school

A priceless volunteer: When 'Papa' comes to school

"I'm a grandfather on my own of nine children, but I have 600 of them here." 'Here,' is Oakcrest Elementary School where Wilbur Holley has been a volunteer for seven years.

"Everyone here, I'm their Papa," he said.

Papa says he came to Oakcrest after battling a major health issue.

"I had to retire from work in 2010 because I had lost a lung. My wife decided my cooking and cleaning at home wasn't very good," he said.

His wife had the perfect place where Papa could be most helpful - in her classroom. She's a kindergarten teacher at Oakcrest and can always use extra hands with her energetic crew. Soon after Papa got here, he took on the entire school.

Just ask Oakcrest Principal Linda Bonifay, "He mentors students after-school. He coaches our football and our basketball. He's involved with Battle of the Books, our Science Olympiad students. It's just endless with Mr. Holley. We were truly blessed," Papa said.

And Papa shared a few other little things they do around the school.

"My wife and I help out with the running team and the swimming team," he said. "We kind of run a semi-bus service for kids who can't make it to events without us."

Papa and Mrs. Holley also fund an achievement celebration every nine weeks at report card time and they support the annual fifth grade banquet. Papa came and saw the needs of his Oakcrest community and he gave his heart and soul. He hopes to send a little part of himself with every child who comes through Oakcrest.

"When they leave this school, I want them to know that I have done everything I can do to help them through the school, but that they can also go do, on their own, the things they need to do to make their life better," Papa said.

Ms. Bonifay says this is one volunteer whose presence is a real force for these children, "Papa is, he is a diamond. He is truly a gem for Oakcrest Elementary. Our students truly love him. The care and compassion that he brings to our community, is priceless."

Angels In Our Midst is sponsored by Nemours Children's Specialty Care.

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