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Volunteer Spotlight: 'This is what I'm supposed to be doing'
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Volunteer Melanie Tillman in the hallway of the Richmond Hill United Methodist Church classrooms with student Scarlett Cobb. Photo by Mark Swendra.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of articles spotlighting area volunteers and their organizations. To nominate a volunteer go here

As a full-time speech therapist and mother of three, Melanie Tillman’s plate is full and it can be tough to find time to volunteer.

“So many times I am tired and feel like I don’t want to do this,” Tillman said, “then I get here and it’s so affirming for me that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Tillman is referring to her volunteer work in the children’s ministry at Richmond Hill United Methodist Church (RHUMC). On Sundays you can find her helping in the children’s church or teaching Sunday school, and on Wednesdays she leads Preschool Storytime during the church’s after-school program.

“We have a larger church and so many wonderful volunteers weekly to help us run our programming,” said Anna Cobb, RHUMC ministry assistant. “But Melanie shines to me because she has taken a leadership role in planning. Every week she’s here (even though her boys are out of the preschool program).”

Tillman and her husband Matt have 7-year-old twin boys Marshall and Rhett, and 5-year-old Luke. And although the three have graduated out of the pre-school (ages 3 and 4) program, Tillman’s heart remains there.

“I would never give this up… it’s my spiritual gift.”

Cobb says Tillman is “a blessing to all around her,” adding, “Every week she is sharing the love of Jesus with these sweet kiddos. Through her stories, songs, and skits, the love she has for Jesus shines through her and pours into these kids.”

Tillman, employed at McAllister Elementary School, has volunteered in the church’s children’s ministry for the last four years.  What’s her motivation? “I always give for the kids. I’m in speech therapy and work with special needs children,” she said. “To teach God’s word and share it with children … I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Maintaining the interest of preschoolers can be tough, but Tillman says she creates a lot of “interactive pieces.”

“My first year I was intent on just reading the Bible to them and they were going to hear things, but I would lose them,” Tillman recalled. “So I figured out you have to keep them engaged.”

She added, “Some days are really challenging to keep their attention (but through songs and skits) you do something for a few minutes and you move on to the next thing.”

Tillman has nothing but praise for the church and its volunteers. “I’ve met so many amazing women (in the ministry). This is such a children-friendly place.”

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