Devoted volunteer earns admiration, gets a High 5

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SALT LAKE CITY -- An elementary school volunteer who is respected and admired by students and teachers alike refuses to be paid for his efforts. But we gave him a High 5 this week.

"Grandpa Joe" Garcia began volunteering at Wright Elementary in West Valley City two years ago.

He saw a parking problem before and after school. Instead of complaining, he did something about it by volunteering. He then devoted more and more time by helping during lunch and recess.

When he isn't out on the playground or in the cafeteria, he is spending time with children.

"His nature and the way he treats them shows how much respect he has for the students, and they in turn respect him," first grade teacher Angie Nielsen wrote about Garcia in her High 5 nomination.

"It may not seem like a big deal," Nielsen wrote, "but he took the time, and paid the money, to be fingerprinted so he can do our recess duty for us. This is so helpful and such a blessing. Even if there is a teacher on duty, he will still walk around and help the students solve their problems."

Nielsen said, "He wasn't feeling well one day and I told him it's OK to go home, and he refused. He is here from 8 to 4 every day."

He didn't want to take any money, he just wants to be here because he loves to be here.

–Kimmy Bayles

Kimmy Bayles, another first grade teacher, said, "It's kind of become a morning thing. Every morning you see him saying hi to everyone, and I get a big smile when I see him."

The kids say they love Grandpa Joe. When we asked what's so special about him, one students said, "He does what's right for the school."

"I try to give back as much as possible," Garcia said. "I'm retired now and this is my reward, these faces, these eyes, these smiles. It's so awesome."

Bayles said, "We had a conversation with our principal about hiring him. (The principal) said he already tried to hire him as an aid to get him paid for being here all day every day. But Grandpa Joe didn't want to be hired. He didn't want to take any money. He just wants to be here because he loves to be here."

As part of the High 5, Garcia got a basket of treats and a $100 gift certificate toward tires from Les Schwab.

If you'd like to nominate someone for a High 5, do so here.


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Jennifer Hardman


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