Dale Allers isn’t related to anyone at Sparta’s Ridgeview Elementary School, but he’s “Grandpa Dale” to the 600-plus students who affectionately greet him every week with smiles, fist bumps and hugs.
“That’s why I do it. I love the kids and their smiles,” said Allers, who has volunteered at the school the last eight years and has no plans of stopping anytime soon.
“He comes over and says ‘Just try your best’ and he always helps us out. And he fixes everything! He makes our whole school a better place,” said first-grader Madison Sackett.
Allers, 70, volunteers two full days in the first grade classrooms of Marcia Powell and Megan Taylor. He comes in early to make coffee for the teachers, and on Wednesdays he volunteers a half-day to copy papers, laminate student work and do whatever else is needed.
“He helps me with my math sometimes, and he makes me laugh when he tickles my ear” — Talen Moody
Powell said she doesn’t know what they would do without him.
“He does everything we ask and more. And he always does it with a smile on his face, no matter what it is,” she said. “He has such a great relationship with the kids. He’s a great male role model for them, and we don’t have many male role models in early elementary.”
Finding His Purpose in Retirement
Allers started working in the school through the Gerontology Network of Grand Rapids as a way to supplement his income. The organization placed him at Ridgeview and after a year, when he no longer needed the supplemental pay, he had already fallen in love with the students and school.
“I couldn’t leave. I just love it here,” he said.
Allers said Powell and Taylor have become like daughters to him. “They’re just so good to me and I love being here. I would hate to sit around home and do nothing. That’s not me,” he said.
Taylor and Powell organized a special Veterans Day surprise recently for Allers, who served as a U.S. Marine in the 1960s. He was greeted by the entire school and presented with a special Marine flag with an engraved plaque from Ridgeview.
“I couldn’t believe they did that for me. It was so nice and something I never expected,” Allers said. “That’s why it’s so special here. Everybody cares.”
Powell couldn’t say enough about Allers and his work in her classroom. “I can’t imagine teaching without him,” she said. “I wish every classroom could have a Grandpa Dale.”
Taylor agreed. “He’s a cool dude. He’s a tough Marine, but he’s a big teddy bear with the kids, and that’s what makes him so endearing. We are so fortunate he chose our school.”