“We had property here just as an investment but we ended up moving back here in January of 2006, just before T.J. started kindergarten,” said Jill. They wanted to be closer to her family and if they would have stayed in Florida it would have cost $6,000 to send T.J. to the Christian school Tim attended as a child.
Jill has a background in education but she and Tim had an agreement that when they had children she would stay at home with them. They stuck to their agreement and while Jill is technically a stay-at-home mom, she spends just about as much time during the day at her “home-away-from-home” as she does her own house. Almost every day Jill can be found volunteering in some capacity at St. Mary’s.
“I started with my son when he was in kindergarten,” explained Jill. “The teacher was fresh out of college and had a fairly large group of kids in her class. They do (learning) centers and I would come in and help with that for a half hour or hour.”
She then found herself helping in other classrooms.
“I was taking kids to library. I was coming in two days a week. I would always go on field trips if they were available because I didn’t want to miss out,” she said. “My kids were growing up so fast I would take any advantage (to spend time with them).”
The tasks Jill helps with are varied. “I stuff Wednesday envelopes here — that’s our communication folders. I have a huge hand in the scrip program. It’s like my own little business — I love to see it thriving,” she said.
She fills in at the school wherever she is needed.
Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Jill Harikkala
Parish: St. Mary, Greenville
Favorite saint: Francis of Assisi
Words to live by: “Consult not your fears but your hopes and dreams. Think not about your
“I’ll help whenever our principal needs any help. If a teacher needs to leave a couple hours early, I fill in,” said Jill. “I help in the computer lab. On Wednesday afternoons I’m in the library re-shelving books or whatever the librarian needs help with. Then I count money for church too.”
While Jill is more than happy to share her time with the parish school, she would love to see more parents step up to volunteer too. “It’s usually the same parents helping,” said Jill. “A lot of parents have to work, we understand that, but they’re just missing out on so much because the kids are so much fun to be with. It’s so rewarding just to see the kids and how much they’re thriving. They’re happy to see me when I come.”
Her own children are especially happy to see her at school every week. “They know I’m here if they ever need me. Not only my own children but other ones come up to me because they look at me as a role model.”
Jill’s presence is appreciated by the staff. “Jill helps with so much in the office here, I don’t know what we would do without her,” said school secretary Yvonne Ziegler. “When I need a sub in the office, I can always call her, she’s always available. She’s happy to help in any way that she can in everything that we need. She’s a wonderful help.”
Recently Jill received the school’s “Footprints on the Heart Award.”
“Words cannot express the gratitude we have for the never-ending positive energy Jill brings to our school and parish,” said principal Debra Fuller. “She is an example for our school children as she models our mission statement daily: ‘As members of the body of Christ, we at St. Mary learn, love and serve.’
“Jill is a wonderful illustration of true stewardship and of Catholic education,” added Fuller.