It has been said, If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.
That well could apply to Myra Britschgi of La Grande, who had been a volunteer in several areas while holding down a job with the La Grande School District as a Title I educational assistant at Riveria School.
In that position, she works three hours a day, five days a week reinforcing teaching in the classroom in reading and math. With the district for 13 years, Britschgi has worked with students in upper primary, middle school and junior high and for the last four years with children in kindergarten and first grade.
Over the past 19 years, she has found time to dedicate to the Sumpter Valley Railway Restoration group, of which she has served terms as president and as vice president. She has been on the board of directors for six years and is now the director for the groups night train event, which runs three times a year. That includes organizing the catered dinner and the train ride 45 minutes each way from Sumpter to McEwen.
Her husband, John, who is a service representative for Xerox Corporation for three area counties, is an engineer on the train.
When their two children, now grown and married, were in middle school, Myra was one of the organizers of the annual trips to Philadelphia by eighth graders. She served in 1991 and 1994, helping raise funds for a year each time, with such activities as car washes, selling sweat shirts and holding craft shows.
Britschgi pronounced BRIT-ski belongs to the Gamma chapter of the Beta Sigma Phi international womens organization. Shes vice president of that groups city council, which does such things as manage the cotton candy machine used in fund-raising projects. The group provides clothing and help for families that need assistance.
While not neglecting her job and other volunteer activities, one of her greatest loves has involved her volunteer work at the Adult and Family Literacy Center at the La Grande Public Library.
Located in a small room in the basement of the library, the center is a place where people can get free assistance in maintaining or improving their reading skills, including using the self-help computer programs and checking out games and materials they might not be able to afford to buy.
Britschgi deals with adults and young students, including referrals from various agencies to help people get the instructional materials they need.
We serve adult learners, La Grande school children, homeschoolers and people studying for their GED or who want to improve their life skills, Britschgi said. Some adults who want to be able to help their children with their reading come to the center to improve their own skills, Britschgi said.
After testing the student, a curriculum is prepared for each individual, and she schedules appointments for the students to come in twice a week for individual tutoring. This could include using one of the three computers, audio-visual equipment, books, workbooks and games that help with a students learning.
Britschgi has been a volunteer at the center since it began about 7 1/2 years ago.
Normally I volunteer three hours a week sometimes a few more, Britschgi said.
She is well qualified for the job and has the temperment to deal with all types of students, those who know her say.
Her background as an instructional assistant for the school district has been invaluable, said Bev White, an early director at the center.
Myra has volunteered for two to four hours per week since the center opened, White said. She also supports the center by gathering materials and by helping recruit other volunteers.
Britschgi said she got some of the materials from various schools in the county and some funding from local clubs and organizations so she could purchase items needed to operate the center.
She has been a tireless and cheerful worker, often covering time slots for other volunteers who suddenly found they
couldnt come in to serve a shift, White said. Myras giving nature has been a mainstay of our literacy effort, White said.
Whites association with Britschgi goes back to 1988.
I was on the interview team that hired her for the Title I Reading lab at the middle school. I was impressed with her quiet but positive approach. She proved to be strong with students who are fragile. Shes a very patient person, White said.
At the literacy center, Myra encouraged me and said shed help however she could, and she has, White said.
La Grande Public Library director Jo Cowling said Britschgi is one of the most upbeat, positive persons I have ever known. Shes always optimistic. Shes a very caring, helpful person. She devotes as much time as is needed for each person who comes to the literacy center. And shes quite a sharp lady.
Britschgi said volunteering at the center goes together with my regular job. Theyre both rewarding. Its neat to see kids growth, to see that I can help them.
She hasnt even thought about stopping her volunteer work at the center.
Ill do this as long as I can be of help to children and families.
Story by Ray Linker of The Observer