Midtown Raleigh News

Raleigh volunteer is ‘Grandma’ to 18 kids

This year, 18 kids called Carolyn David “Grandma Carolyn.”

For the past five years, the 67-year-old Raleigh resident has been volunteering at Wanda’s Little Hands, an N.C. Pre-K school, through the Foster Grandparent Program.

“You get so close to those kids that they become your grandkids,” David said. “Sometimes I think I might get a little too close because they do pull on your heart, they really do.”

This year, she volunteered in Holly Greene’s class of 18.

David’s sense of humor and kindness separated her from the other volunteers, Greene said.

“She has a way of enjoying the children and making them feel special,” she said. “Money couldn’t buy what she gave them.”

Greene nominated David for an Unsung Hero Award, given annually by the Raleigh Community Services Department, which administers the Foster Grandparent Program.

David and another volunteer were presented with the honors at the annual Senior Corps Banquet on May 18. David said she was surprised by the honor. Initially, she thought she was chosen among Wanda’s Little Hands volunteers, not department volunteers.

Cancer in 3s

David resigned her full-time job in 1996, after a mass tumor was discovered on her spine. In 2000, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, and in 2001, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“They say things come in threes, so it just hit you back to back,” David said.

David had surgery for the tumor, which left her walking with a cane. A mastectomy, radiation and chemo followed. She is now cancer-free.

As she fought the cancers, David took care of her grandchildren until they were in school.

“The kids helped me not dwell on cancer,” David said. “I didn’t realize it, but it got my mind off of myself.”

With her grandchildren in school, David said she had nothing to do.

Eventually, David discovered the Foster Grandparent Program and “fell in love with it.”

Lifting spirits

When David pulls up to the school, the kids often recognize her car before Greene does.

“They’re grinning from ear to ear,” Greene said. “They would be really excited when she walked in the door.”

Whenever David came into the class, her face would light up as well, Greene said.

Working with the kids has helped with David’s health physically and emotionally, Greene said.

“You can just tell that being there just lifts her spirit,” Greene said. “With 4-year-olds, there’s just not time to dwell on things.”

From 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, David helps the students with their ABCs and colors, how to write their names and other activities to prepare for kindergarten.

“I’m just in there to do what I can do for the kids,” David said.