Dallas woman, 80 and blind, inspires others

DALLAS?Many Americans work toward retirement, dreaming of the day they can kick their feet up or at least live life at a slower pace. Some travel or find new hobbies to occupy their time. Among the multitude, there are a few who find their earlier years just a warm-up for life’s golden era.

At age 80 and legally blind, consider Valerie Webb in the latter category.

Webb still serves her community despite her age and visual impairment, and her volunteerism earned her a trip to Austin recently to receive an award from Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Webb, a member of the National Federation of Grandmothers Club in Dallas, volunteers her time each Thursday at Runyon Elementary School helping teach third-graders to read, as well as actively serving at her church, Liberty Baptist in Dallas.

For several years, “Granny Val” has helped third-grade children with their reading skills. “They would read to me and when they came to a word they couldn’t pronounce, I would have them spell it out to me,” Webb said. “Then, after I told them what the word was, we discussed the meaning and would read over it again.”

Because of her poor sight, this method worked best for Webb, but this year she was able to use large flashcards with big letters that she could actually see. Though her time spent with the children each week is valuable, Webb has impacted their lives in more ways than one.

“I walk into the classroom each time and give each child a big hug,” Webb said. “I grow close to the class that comes through each year, but eventually they have to move on to the next grade level. I think a lot of the children I work with every week.”

Kim Stephanie, counselor at Runyon Elementary School, said, “Valerie gives more than her time to the students each week. She donates uniform clothing to complete sets for boys and girls, and other things like binders, pencils, notebook paper, and certain school necessities.”

On Sept. 12, Webb was given the “Heroes for Texas Award,” a yearly honor presented to outstanding volunteers in school districts throughout Texas. In this year’s case, Webb represented Runyon Elementary School from the Dallas Independent School District. “I was so shocked and dumbfounded that they would even choose me,” Webb remarked.

In a special banquet ceremony, Webb, accompanied by Stephanie, accepted the award given by the Texas State Board of Education in Austin from Gov. Perry.

Webb was nominated by four teachers at Runyon Elementary and chosen out of several volunteers to accept the award because of her dedication to the children. “She is faithful to come and help on a weekly basis despite her visual impairment,” Stephanie said. “She has gone above and beyond the call of duty to assist in the classrooms.”

Because of her faithfulness, Webb has since been recognized throughout Dallas for her volunteer work. More recently, she spoke at Cedarville schools about the service she has given to others. Webb said, “I get a lot of pleasure out of what I can do to help, but I don’t deserve any more recognition than the next person.”

Not only has she been recognized for her outstanding work at Runyon Elementary, but she is also a faithful volunteer at Liberty Baptist Church. Webb serves at the church as a greeter to new visitors, a prayer warrior, assistant to the AWANA children’s program, and manages to stay very active in her Sunday school class.

Webb was recently presented with a volunteer certificate at an awards banquet where she was recognized for spending two to three hours a week volunteering at the church. “I told the pastor that I was willing to do anything that I could at the church despite the fact that I can’t use my vision,” Webb said.

“Valerie is available at any time we call on her, and although blind, she is completely willing to do anything,” said Lowell Sherman, pastor of Liberty Baptist. “The point that I tried to emphasize to the other volunteers is that regardless of what a person’s age or physical handicaps might be, that no one is totally incapable of helping out somehow.”

Though Webb is entitled to enjoy her free time, she dismisses that her old age will slow her down. “One of the main reasons why I do volunteer work is because I don’t like to just sit here at my house in my chair and do nothing,” she said. “I’ve found fulfillment in volunteering my time at my church and at the school with the children. I’ll do as much as my health allows me as long as I’m here.”

Webb recalled a recent event in her life that bonded her with the children at Runyon Elementary School. Several months ago, she got pneumonia and was hospitalized briefly. In the class where she volunteers, each child made her a get-well card. The principal of Runyon Elementary, Mr. Peters, brought them along with a bouquet of flowers.

In response to their kindness, she wrote a poem that was read to the third-grade class that she volunteers in o

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