SEMINOLE — Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?"
If you were answering that question for Nancy Rose, you'd have to say, "a whole lot."
At an amazing age of 78 years young, the Starkey Elementary School volunteer lets little get in the way of lending a helping hand to teachers and students.
Known affectionately as "Nana Rose," she is no stranger to the needs of the Starkey community. A retired bookkeeper, she first began volunteering at the school in 2013 in her daughter's classroom. In that year alone, she volunteered more than 400 hours.
“Every year, on the first or second day of school, I would come in and she would introduce me to her students as Nana Rose,” she said.
During her decade of service, she has helped teachers prepare for upcoming lessons in Starkey's Volunteer Cafe and has even been known to take home any work still needed to be done. She regularly reads to the school's younger students, helping them learn to read and write and sharing the love of reading with the next generation. She has also helped monitor classrooms during yearly student testing.
When her daughter announced her retirement in 2022, she said more than one teacher reached out to her.
“They'd come up to me and say, 'You're not going with her, are you?'" she said.
And though her daughter has since retired, Rose has continued to volunteer on a weekly basis — whether inside the classroom or anywhere on campus she may be needed.
Outside of the classroom, Rose helps man the monthly Starkey Store, during which students can turn in behavior points for toys. She has chaperoned class field trips and is a very active supporter and volunteer for Starkey's PTA.
Last year, she volunteered for an impressive 65 hours, but has already surpassed that number this year, with 99 hours of service.
Rose and 14 other volunteers across the district were honored as finalists for Outstanding School Volunteer of the Year for their service at an awards breakfast hosted by Pinellas County Schools on March 29. According to the district, the 15 finalists represent more than 30,000 volunteers who have volunteered approximately 400,000 hours in classrooms, libraries, field trips, special events and more so far this school year.
Starkey Elementary principal Audrey Chaffin said Rose is an invaluable asset to the school.
“Staff and students love Nana Rose,” she said. “She is ready with a smile and a hug for anyone and for any reason because her purpose is to brighten everyone’s day that she touches.”
No matter what she does on campus, she always has a warm smile for passersby and hugs whenever anyone — teacher or student — who might need one.
She said her favorite part of volunteering is what she gets in return as payment.
Her going rate?
"At least one hug a day."