Feature Stories

"Grand Friend" Dick McFarland Makes a Difference at Deephaven Elementary

Years ago, Dick McFarland wrote a letter to Deephaven Elementary Principal Bryan McGinley, inquiring about opportunities to volunteer at the school. “I wanted to volunteer at a school in my own backyard,” shared McFarland, who is 93 years old. Principal McGinley called him back the next day, and a beautiful partnership began. 

McFarland is passionate about reading, and so his volunteering took the form of connecting with first and second graders to listen to them read aloud. Now, he can be found most Tuesday mornings in Rachel Norton’s second grade classroom. 

“The impact Dick makes through his volunteering is twofold,” said Norton. “He is helping students to feel good about reading, helping them to be confident in comprehension and fostering enjoyment for reading. The most important impact, however, is the positive relationships he builds with the students. He takes the time to get to know them personally and makes each child he works with feel so special and loved. He is a beloved ‘grand friend’ to all of the students, and everyone wants a turn to work with Mr. McFarland. He is an incredible human being.”

McFarland’s commitment to Deephaven has created a ripple effect with others in the school community. “Dick has a magnetic personality and quickly showed us the positive influence grandparents could make in a school,” said Principal McGinley. “We expanded his idea to invite other grandparents and grand friends to join in the mission of supporting our youngest readers. Because of Dick, we have over 20 grand friends volunteering at Deephaven today.” 

Norton says McFarland’s visits to the school are one of the best moments of the week for her class. “When he comes into our classroom on Tuesdays, he has an exuberant, ‘Good Morning, Students!’,” said Norton. “He always tells them how happy he is to be with them and how he has missed them. His joy and positive attitude just permeate the classroom and make us all feel so joyful that he is with us.”

“Dick took the initiative to get involved and make a difference,” said Principal McGinley. “He showed that people of any age can make a huge difference in our schools if they take the initiative to get involved.”

For McFarland, the students are the center of why he volunteers. “Working with the kids–I love them,” explained McFarland. “They’re just terrific. It is fun being here every Tuesday morning. The people here are just delightful, and I love to do it. I’m going to do it as long as I can.” 

Thank you for your commitment and care, Mr. McFarland!

Hear from Dick McFarland in this video story.

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