Volunteer Spotlight: Tara Koschei-Tinelle

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In honor of National Volunteer Week, The Children’s Aid Society is shining a spotlight on Tara Koschei-Tinelle who began volunteering at the Rhinelander Children’s Center in 2008 working with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Saturday Program. Tara wanted an opportunity to work with children and teens while at the same time developing her fluency in American Sign Language.

Karen Solomon, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program Director, says:

“You could not find a more dedicated, reliable, responsible and caring individual. Tara gets along well with other program staff, the children she works with and their families. Program participants are very comfortable with Tara and know she is always available to lend a helping hand. Tara's sign language skills have improved so much since she began volunteering at Rhinelander. She is now considering enrolling in a sign language interpreter training program so that she can put these skills to work in a vocational setting. She goes above and beyond what is expected of her and never hesitates to help in any way that she can.  Her dedication and concern for the children and their families is very obvious.  In addition, during special events, Tara recruits her family members to help out as well!! Tara's attendance and punctuality are excellent despite the long distance she travels from her home in Yonkers, NY. “

Below, Tara shares her feelings on why she enjoys working with this specific program and what she has gained by volunteering with The Children’s Aid Society.

What motivated you to volunteer in the Deaf & Hard of Hearing Program at the Children’s Aid Society Rhinelander Center?

I wanted to volunteer at Children's Aid because I wanted to utilize my ability to communicate in American Sign Language and help enrich the lives of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children and teens by enabling them to experience new things.

What keeps you coming back to the program?

I truly enjoy working with Deaf and Hard of Hearing children/teens and sharing in their excitement as we go on different trips and participate in different activities together.

What do you enjoy most about your volunteer experience here?

Many of the places we travel to with our teen group are new places for me too, and I enjoy the enthusiasm and joy on their faces as we visit these excursions. I love sharing in the experiences with them.

What have you learned or how have you personally been affected from your experience at Children’s Aid?

Working with the Saturday Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children/Teens has taught me how to communicate more efficiently with teens that are not only from diverse backgrounds, but have different hearing losses and learning abilities. It has also made me think of things in a different way and not take certain conveniences for granted.

Why do you think it is important to volunteer in the community?

I think it is important to volunteer in the community because I think it is important to "pay it forward". I believe it is important to do good in the world and pass on your knowledge to others. You will never understand how much others have to offer you, if you do not offer yourself to them.

Is there anyone that has inspired or mentored you along the way that has influenced your decision to volunteer?

I grew up in a home with a mother that always volunteered to help others, even when she didn't have much time for herself. This work ethic has been instilled in me at a very young age and it makes me feel good knowing that I, too, can help others and make them feel good, just like my mother always did.

Do you have an inspirational story you can briefly share about your volunteer experience at The Children’s Aid Society?  Please share with us!

Through my years with the program, I came in contact with a young girl who wore a smile on her face every day despite the fact that she had little to smile about. She had been bouncing from home to home over the last few years and had few material belongings. When I learned that she didn't have proper winter attire for the harsh season we were having, I gathered together some winter jackets, scarves and gloves from myself and my family to provide her the warmth she needed. During the following spring, she was scheduled to go to a program at one of the colleges that offered an excellent program for Deaf students. When I learned that she did not have a suitcase to travel with, I was able to get an older one that was still good from my grandmother's attic to give her for whenever she traveled. I have learned so much from this young girl, especially not to take what you have for granted and that you can always find the sunshine on a cloudy day. Things could always be worse and we are, of course, alive, which is reason enough to be happy.

Featured image: Tara Koschei-Tinelle (left) with a Deaf & Hard of Hearing Program participant.