Commentary: Just call me everybody’s playmate

Being a Child Watch Center volunteer the best job in the world

Harriet Cuthbert

I have the best volunteer job in the world, or at least, I think it is. I work at the Sarasota YMCA, in the Child Watch Center, helping the staff take care of children while parents work out.

As part of the Y membership package, members who are parents are allotted one, two-hour segment of child care every day. They call in to reserve their slots. Then, when they arrive at the Y, they drop off their children at the Child Watch Center and are free to exercise while enjoying the comfort of knowing that their children are, literally, in good hands.

As a volunteer, I have the luxury of choosing my own hours and length of time for each stint. But when I approach the door and lift up the latch to enter the play area, I feel like I will never want to leave.

One recent day, I immediately was accosted by Zach, who grabbed me and gave me kisses. Then Jace came running over, taking my hand and pulling me along to get his favorite Thomas and the Train book while we set up the train tracks. He next grabbed his favorite helicopter so it could “read” along with us. Beautiful Ben was playing in the corner with many toys, drawing from his phenomenal imagination to tell me a story. The Ferris wheel is his favorite toy.

As child care staff members, we have the privilege, too, of keeping watch over newborn infants, who sleep happily in their strollers or in our arms as we sit in the big white rocker and comfort them.

Jasmine, who just turned 5, enjoys being the “big sister” to her own baby brother and also to some of the younger children. Eliza, about 18 months, who used to cry when Mommy left, is now very happy to be with everyone else and participate in our games.

There is an enormous selection of toys, books, puzzles, play houses — everything to keep the children challenged and happy. I am always amazed at the youngsters’ instant camaraderie, no matter how large their age gaps are. I love sitting on the floor with them as they pile up the large cloth blocks and then knock them down while they say, “Boom” — and proceed to do it all over again.

Reading stories to them and watching them learn their letters and numbers is also wondrous. You can never be in a bad mood if you play with children and get all those hugs and kisses.

As I said, I have the most wonderful volunteer job in the world.