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Cash named 2012 Judy Mountjoy Volunteer of the Year

By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools

MAY 4 – Every Friday, you can find Lucy Cash at the Reward Store at Paisley IB Magnet School, hawking solar-powered hula dancers and joshing with students, many of whom she knows by name.

“She has a lot of energy, and she is here all the time, no matter what,” said fellow volunteer Brierley Ash.
Between Paisley, where her son Leon is a seventh-grader, and Whitaker Elementary School, where her younger son, George, is in the third grade, Cash spends about 20 hours a week as a volunteer.

All the work that Cash does – and all the care she shows for students and teachers along the way - prompted the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Council of PTAs to give Cash its 2012 Judy Mountjoy Volunteer of the Year Award last night. Established in 2000, the award is named for a former teacher and guidance counselor who has devoted countless hours as a volunteer.

It feels odd to be honored for doing something that’s so satisfying, Cash said. “I genuinely enjoy it.”

The hula dancers are just one of the offerings at the PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention Support) Reward Store, where Paisley students come during their lunch on Fridays to spend the reward tickets that teachers have given them during the week in recognition of good behavior. Along with such fun offerings as miniature Zen gardens that Cash has found on shopping expeditions for the store, it carries such everyday school basics as pencils and glue sticks.

Managing the store is just one of the ways in which Cash serves Paisley. She gives tours to prospective students and their parents. She helps teachers and administrators.

“If the teacher needs something, she’s going to figure out a way to get it done,” said Deena Dreyfuss, a Paisley volunteer who nominated Cash for the award. “She is here so much, she gets to know the kids. So many kids come up to her. She says, ‘How did you do on that math test?’”

“She connects very well with kids,” said fellow volunteer Valerie Magoun.

When Cash sees that a student could use an advocate, she steps into that role. “I have some kids who are sort of my kids,” she said.

“She has been a positive force at Paisley ever since she has been here,” said Gary Cone, the principal at Paisley.

Cash’s life as a volunteer at Paisley started last year when Leon went there as a sixth-grader. That first year, she served as co-chair of the school’s annual Fine Arts Festival. This year, she served as chairwoman of the festival, and she has already committed to being a co-chair for next year.

Although her focus is on Paisley these days, she continues to be active at Whitaker, where she has done such things as establish a reading club for third-grade girls who were reluctant readers. (Some of the girls enjoyed the club so much that they kept meeting on their own and still get together as sixth-graders.)

In February, a fire destroyed the home of Angela Reed, who teaches physical education at Whitaker. Each year, Reed makes tie-dyed shirts with her students, and, over the years, she had built up a collection that meant a lot to her. When Reed mentioned to Cash that losing the shirts was particularly hard, Cash secretly tracked down students from previous years and invited them to gather on a Sunday and make new shirts. Other students decorated a comforter cover for Reed.

“It made me feel wonderful,” Reed said. “Whenever you need somebody, she is right there. She is a very helpful, kind, sincere person.”

Many people in Winston-Salem know Cash as the creator of Life in Forsyth, a blog that she started in 2006 to highlight many of the things that make Forsyth County a good place to live. With Cash devoting more of her energy to volunteering and other activities lately, Life in Forsyth has gotten less of her attention.

“I don’t feel like I need to do the blog as much,” Cash said. “I tend to go where there is a need.”
Kim Underwood