Longtime volunteer donates books, ice cream

Betsy Vos was like a grandmother to many young students at Sorteberg Early Childhood Center and Sand Creek Elementary School in Coon Rapids, where she volunteered for 20 years.

Students sift through a table of new books to determine which one they might like to take home. The books were purchased with a $1,000 donation from Betsy Vos.

Students sift through a table of new books to determine which one they might like to take home. The books were purchased with a $1,000 donation from Betsy Vos. Photo by Olivia Koester

In fact, students called her Grandma Vos, and she became like family to them.

Years after working with kids in the classroom, Vos would receive Christmas cards from former students and invitations to their weddings, Sand Creek Elementary first-grade teacher Mary Kay Ortler said with a wistful smile.

Vos worked in Ortler’s classroom, reporting for duty each and every day before falling ill nearly five years ago. Even after that time, she continued helping Ortler with “homework” outside of the classroom.

Vos passed away at age 81 on Jan. 10, 2014, after suffering from congestive heart failure.

Even after death, Vos will continue to touch students’ lives. She left the first-graders at Sand Creek Elementary School $1,000. It was her wish that each student receive a brand new book and an ice cream sundae; the remaining funds will go toward the purchase of classroom library sets.

Vos’s three children, Linda Vos, Tom Vos and Deb Zimmerman, were on hand May 30 to dish up ice cream for 140 first-grade students at Sand Creek.

“She loved volunteering,” Zimmerman said of her mother. She started working in Ortler’s classroom after having a massive heart attack 20 years ago, and being with the students “kept her young, kept her going,” Zimmerman said.

“She just wants to make sure that all kids have a chance to learn how to read,” Tom Vos said of his mother’s donation to Sand Creek.

A variety of books for young readers were displayed on a table outside May 30. Students were allowed to select one book to take home. Everything from “Magic Tree House” to “Berenstain Bears” books were up for grabs. Students had a difficult choice to make, and some hemmed and hawed by the table for quite some time before making their selection.

When students flipped through their new books and munched on ice cream, grandma was there with them, Tom Vos said, remembering his mother.

Olivia Koester is at olivia.koester@ecm-inc.com

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