By Carrie Dillard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Anne Wagner walks into South Laurel Middle School carrying a tote bag with the inscription, “Volunteers Plant the Seeds of Kindness.” It was a gift for her many years of service as PTO treasurer at the school and as a parent volunteer — long after her sons, Eric and Alex, graduated from middle school.
Chances are, you’ve seen her. She’s a staple at pretty much any school sporting event, just as much as the hot dogs she serves.
Offering a smile to everyone who stops by the after-school or sports concession stand, Wagner is the epitome of the idea of spreading kindness.
In her spare time, aside from her time at SLMS, she has opened her home to three rescue dogs and helps raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association through a quarterly fundraiser at Jackson Manor nursing home. She helps prepare the food for the barbecue luncheon. Her mother, Dorothy Amburgey, has been a temporary resident there three times for recovery.
Most recently, she’s offered to drive a friend to Lexington for radiation treatments. She’s always on the go.
After retiring from London Elementary in 2005, Wagner found a way to stay connected to her students and the school system by volunteering.
Wagner spent all of her 28 plus years of teaching at London Elementary, and in a way, by volunteering at SLMS, she was able to see her students move on and grow.
“My last year (of first graders) have left here and gone on to high school now,” she said. “It makes me want to cry.”
Her main duty at SLMS is managing the concession stand for the PTO. Wagner orders all the supplies, keeps the concessions stocked and recruits parent volunteers to work games, often working many herself.
“I’m the gopher,” she said.
The number of hours it takes, she said, is often the same as a full time job.
“Some days (spending) nine to ten hours here is nothing. It keeps me busy. Everybody says they don’t know why I do it. It’s supposed to keep me young.
“I don’t know if it’s going to work,” she said jokingly.
Ironically though, she never gets to see much of the games.
“I run out and see what the score is or ask the kids,” she said.
As a retired teacher, she’s ever the disciplinarian. Wagner doesn’t allow the students to call each other names or let slip a curse word within hearing distance.
“I tell them, ‘I don’t want to hear that and I know your mother wouldn’t want to know you said it.’”
About four years ago, the PTO began offering after-school concessions for students who were staying for sports or academic team practices.
“We got the idea from North Laurel. It gives them something to eat before they have practice,” Wagner said. “The kids love it.”
Prices at the concession stand are very reasonable. Hot dogs are the top sellers. A plain hot dog costs $1.
“I try to keep it that way so everybody can afford something. Some things are even 25 cents,” she said.
All the monies raised from concessions goes to the PTO, helping to fund one of Wagner’s favorite events, the PTO-sponsored 8th grade dance.
“I enjoy that the most,” she said.
Her son Eric is 27 now, and Alex, 17, is a senior at South Laurel High.
While her sons may be gone from South Laurel Middle School, she said she isn’t going anywhere.
“I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t do this,” she said. “I might have to clean my house, and I don’t like doing that.”
Even when Alex graduates as a part of the Class of 2013, Wagner said she believes you’ll still find her here.
“I love it here. They can’t get rid of me.”