Cheryl Burns – PLC Volunteer

“I like to run under the radar,” said Cheryl Burns, only half-jokingly. And run she does (figuratively) as a volunteer for the Palmetto Literacy Council.

Cheryl began volunteering at PLC in 2020, during the COVID pandemic. She plays a huge role in the organization, working behind the scenes as do many PLC volunteers. Without volunteers like Cheryl, the administrative, tracking, and assessment processes that go hand-in-hand with a non-profit organization would be left undone.

Cheryl began her volunteer work with PLC putting together student binders.

“But we discovered that our Laces program (a student data management system) that we purchased was being underused,” said Dodi Hodges, executive director of the Palmetto Literacy Council.

“Cheryl came into our office and announced she was going to develop the Laces database, and no one was to touch it unless she permitted them. I laughed heartily and proclaimed her our “Laces Czar,” said Dodi.

According to Dodi, Cheryl has added features to the database to help track materials, assessments, monthly reports, student/teacher pairings, and much more.

“Cheryl is amazing and makes my work so much easier. She runs reports when asked for grants, information meetings, and Board of Directors executive directors reports,” said Dodi.

Cheryl has some help inputting into the data system. Lana Miller inputs all the new students while Whitney Wopat enters the monthly reports sent by tutors.

“If anyone runs into a problem, they call me,” said Cheryl.

Cheryl grew up in Pennsylvania Amish and Mennonite country. But, she had big dreams. “You know the Mary Tyler Moore show that was on TV? In the opening scene, she throws her hat in the air and says, ‘I’m going to make it after all.’”

Those who watched the show can only assume that Mary’s hat eventually landed, maybe a few streets over. Cheryl’s proverbial beret entered the stratosphere – and beyond.

In 1982, an era in which many women still strove to break the “glass ceiling,” Cheryl shattered it. She created a business – writing bail bonds to get people out of jail – unusual work for a woman.

“We had bail agents in every state. That company and raising my three children was my life. I enjoy helping people. Everyone assumes that when you’re in jail you’re ‘bad.’ That’s not true. These people just needed guidance.”

Years later, when Cheryl sold the business, she made it a stipulation that she wanted to meet every bail agent across the country.

“My husband and I were on the road for two years. I truly loved every one of my bail agents and the chance to meet them. And I was overwhelmed when they told me how highly they regarded me,” she said.

With the kids grown and the company sold, Cheryl said she finally had time to volunteer. Why did she choose PLC?:

“I believe in children. If they can’t read, they can’t succeed in life. It makes me feel good to know I’m helping children. Ms. Dodi is a wonderful person and this organization is an outstanding place to work. I find it very rewarding,”

The admiration is mutual, said Dodi.

“I cannot imagine Cheryl ever leaving. She has been my rock when things felt like they were floating away. I learn from her all the time.”

Cheryl’s philosophy for living is simple, so simple it may seem elusive to some.

“I enjoy every day of my life. Every moment is a blessing. If you smile at every person you see, you might make a difference in their life,” she said.

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