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Heroes who give time to schools Helping: Five Baltimore- area residents have offered their time and talent to schools for years and ask for nothing in return.


THIS IS THE THIRD annual Education Beat column about people who give of themselves in education. All five Baltimore-area residents below volunteer time and talent, asking nothing in return but the satisfaction of helping.

Dorothy M. Jones

Call the nursing suite at Govans Elementary School. The answer is brisk: "Nurse Jones here."

Dorothy M. Jones, 68, is in her fourth year as the nurse at the North Baltimore school. Since city elementary schools can't afford full-time nurses, Jones works for lunch and car fare. She's a volunteer in a job that ought to be paid.

She also works for her daughter, Edith Jones, who happens to be the Govans principal.

"She's more well than most of us," Edith says of her mother. "The children know, the parents know: If you have a problem, go see Nurse Jones."

Retired after 40 years in nursing, Jones wearied of "looking at the four walls" and paid her daughter a visit.

"I saw that there was a desperate need for a nurse, so I just " started coming in. It's very rewarding and very challenging. A lot of these kids have more than physical problems. A lot of them need nurturing and counseling."

Jones' day runs from 8 to 6. After school, she works (for pay) in Govans' Child First program, teaching children about safety, drugs and health science.

She was offered a paid job as a city school nurse, Jones says, "but they wanted me to cover more than one school. I refused. This is a full-time job here. Besides, money isn't everything."

Jack Gray

Twenty-five years ago, Jack Gray volunteered to help coach the baseball team at Pikesville Senior High School. "It got me out of the house," says Gray, who's still doing it at 73.

Gray has seen a generation of young men come and go, and he's kept track of many of them. A catcher on a state championship team is now a physician in Chicago. Another is a brain surgeon. A third works in the Dallas Cowboys' front office. No major leaguers so far.

Gray, whose son and daughter are Pikesville High graduates, says he's turned down offers to work for "serious money." He says he'd rather see teachers get the extra pay for coaching. He does, however, take $1 a year. "They haven't paid me for two years," he says. "Next spring, I'm going to hold out."

Philip and Alice Dibben

Educators at Northeast High School in Pasadena figure Philip and Alice Dibben have tutored 1,000 students in mathematics, though no one seems to remember when the couple started volunteering.

It was five or six years ago, says Alice Dibben, 68. "Eight to 10 years ago is more accurate," says Philip Dibben, 73, "although a thousand students is probably a bit too generous." The Dibbens are mathematicians who retired from the National Security Agency; they operate a horse farm.

"The principal gave a talk at the Lake Shore Rotary asking for volunteers," remembers Alice. "Phil signed us up. It evolved into a once-a-week evening session for two hours. We just adjust our schedule so Thursday evening is always clear for Northeast.

"We help with whatever they bring in. It might be homework, or there's a test coming up, or they've been out sick and need to get caught up. It's entirely voluntary for the students."

And voluntary for the Dibbens, who say they get their satisfaction in watching students succeed in school.

"Sometimes," says Alice, "it's just a matter of a little encouragement, a little perking up. One young man came in and said, first thing, that his math teacher hated him. He showed me a test on which he'd gotten a grade of 20.

"So we worked and worked, and a while later he came in with a grade of 60. I said, 'See, she doesn't hate you. She just wants you to do well.' "

The Dibbens have considered retiring from the volunteer work, but every year they're persuaded to return. "It's the best volunteer job in the world," says Alice Dibben.

Angela Hoffnagle

Much has changed at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Glyndon since Angela Hoffnagle started volunteering 28 years ago.

Then, "Angie," as she is called, helped sew the girls' uniforms. Today, uniforms are purchased on the outside, and so are many of the school's supplies.

But Angie Hoffnagle still keeps the Sacred Heart school store open a couple of days a week, and a requirement that pupils buy tablets in the school guarantees steady business.

"Angie works very quietly behind the scenes," says Anne Price, Sacred Heart principal. "She's not loud, but she's always there when you need her."

Widowed since 1972, Hoffnagle, 69, raised seven children and put them through parochial schools, including Sacred Heart. "Now I'm seeing the children of the children who went to school with my children," she says.

Her motivation? "My family got a lot out of the school. Now I'm putting something back."

Pub Date: 12/23/98

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