In the middle of a small room at The Saunders School Apartments, Annette Diodati’s hands are covered in glue. “I guess I really like glue today, she laughs as she spurts more glue onto a paper plate as she helps the children of Saunders School make butterflies and owls out of paper plates and googly eyes. For the past three years, Diodati has volunteered once a month at the Saunders School, helping children with their reading and writing skills. The Saunders School is a 16-unit supportive housing development on South Broadway, established to help fight homelessness in Massachusetts.

Volunteerism has always been important to Diodati. “I think it’s important to give back”, the Lawrence resident said. “If you can do it then why not? It may just seem like a silly craft but it really gives them a boost in self esteem.” She said she believes volunteering is so important that she often brings her two children, 12-year old Jackson and 5-year old Amelia, along with her. “I feel like a lot of kids are so disconnected. They are connected to their video games and computers but disconnected (from) the real world,” she said. “I think it is important for them to see that there are other kids out there that have more than you and then there are some with less than you. If you can, help out the less fortunate. It’s your duty to go out into the world and make your little bit of peace.” Diodati said she still wishes she could do more. “I think it could be great if we could offer more tutoring or something like that,” she said while looking at her two children. “I could tutor,” Jackson said gleefully. On that particular day, Diodati helps the students make some crafts, then reads them two Dr. Seuss books. Diodati said she’s noticed that while some parents drop their children off for the activity, some parents stay and do the craft with them. “It’s great to see. A lot of the adults may never had anyone in their life growing up that sat down with them and read them a book or did a craft with them. Maybe if they see how much their children enjoy it, they will do it at home one-on-one with their kids as well,” she said.

The former social worker has seen a difference the structured activity has made on the kids. “When I first started, they couldn’t sit still for 15 minutes,” she said. “Now they can come, work on a craft and listen to a story for an hour. That’s huge.” The children look forward to their time with Diodati as well. “I often send emails to the parents the night before to remind them that it’s happening. I get a lot of emails back saying they didn’t forget because their child reminded them,” Peabody Properties Resident Service Coordinator at the Saunders School Marcy Grady said. Diodati said she hopes her story will serve as an inspiration for others to volunteer more. “I wish more people would volunteer. It would be great to see more volunteers here,” she said. “I don’t think people realize how little they have to do to make a difference in someone’s life.”

By Sarah Brown, Eagle Tribune

Follow Sara Brown on Twitter @Sara_Brown_Trib.
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