In continuation of our 15th year celebration, we sat down with Stacy Spell to talk about his experiences volunteering with New Haven Reads. Stacy, a retired police detective and The New Haven Independent’s 2011 Man of the Year, has been volunteering with NHR for over 10 years!
NHR: When and why did you first start volunteering with NHR?
Stacy: I became a tutor at New Haven reads quite accidentally. I had brought my youngest child, a ten or eleven year old son, Noble S. Spell who at the time was having some problem in math. I had been referred by his school, the Foote School to inquire if NHR could help him. I went there one afternoon directly after school and was directed to the rear office of Christine Alexander. The telephones were ringing off the hooks, children were running around, and being the good Christian, I asked if there was anything I could do to help in this chaotic scene? She said, “ Yes. You can become a tutor”. I filled out an application right then and there with my references and was quickly approved. Noble got the help he needed, and went on to become a tutor. As well, as his sister Symphony A. Spell, when they were both seniors in High School. Noble is now twenty two and Symphony twenty five years old.
NHR: What keeps you coming back?
Stacy: What keeps me coming back is the joy of aiding a young person in developing their reading and comprehension skills. There is a joy in knowing that I’m making a difference in the lives of young children, who will progress past their difficulties and graduate high school. One child I started out with when he didn’t have two front teeth is still my tutee, and has grown into a young man that stays engaged because I’m there. There is an unspoken joy in being a part of an organization that really has done great work and is continues to make an impact on our New Haven community.
NHR: From your personal perspective, how has NHR changed over the last 10 years?
Stacy: NHR has changed over the years in that it has become better organized, has a larger effienct staff and expanded its footprint beyond the Bristol Street site. Its fundraising efforts and Board of Directors have become more successful, and our status has far exceeded what Christine Alexander envisioned when she created a space to address children’s reading needs out of a small space downtown. The evolution is and has been impressive.
NHR: What kind of impact do you believe that NHR has on our community and the city of New Haven?
Stacy: NHR has had an impact on our community and city that not only addresses the needs of children in need of academic help. It has broadened its reach to correctional institutions, supports community events by donating books to give away, supplies non-profits, and feeds the addictive reading habits of its volunteer tutors. It has stepped into the gaps of where communities without libraries can be supported and reaches the needs of
NHR: What impact, if any, do you feel that volunteering at NHR has had on you?
Stacy: The personal impact of NHR in my life speaks to my need to be a social change agent. Not just in speaking change, but inspiring change by action. It is one of the ways that I’m able to stay engaged and make a difference, and to be reminded of quiet strength and humility. At the end of every session I have always been thanked by the staff, but it is I that have to thank them.