CITRUS PARK — Bessie McCoy doesn't do it for the money. She is a volunteer, after all.
But at Citrus Park Elementary School, a school that is more than 100 years old, McCoy has made as much of a mark as the Little Red Schoolhouse that still stands on the property.
McCoy was named both the Hillsborough County and the Department of Education Senior Volunteer of the Year. At 79 and known to everyone as Miss Bessie, she is entering her 10th year at Citrus Park and doesn't plan on going anywhere else any time soon.
“I enjoy the children so much,” McCoy said. “I was retired and wanted to help out in schools. I had free time.”
McCoy is a great-great-grandmother, but is as spry as anyone younger. She volunteers at every grade level and has worked in the classrooms, the cafeteria and the media center. She stays on most days from open to close.
For the past three years McCoy has been working in the school's media center. She assists with book check-ins, shelves hundreds of books a day, reads to the kids, and helps with book selections.
Principal Paulette English said that McCoy is not viewed as a volunteer but an integral part of the school staff.
McCoy said she was honored by the award, but does the work out of love.
“I feel like I am raising a lot of the kids at Citrus Park,” McCoy said. “I saw a lot of kids who needed help and I had time. I didn't care if it was the lunch room, the media center or the classroom. The kids need help and it means a lot to me.”
She started as a kindergarten assistant and now helps with students of all ages. Her secret to working with so many kids as a volunteer?
”You work as hard as you can for as long as you can,” she said. “I know how to listen to them and they know how to talk to me.
“The kids know I love them. That's the secret.”