Retired teachers dedicate years to volunteering in community

Myrna Chilese and Kathy Cory are retired school teachers with hearts of gold, and a passion for helping children succeed that far surpasses classroom walls. As Myrna and Kathy embarked on a post-retirement journey of volunteerism, they fatefully found Southwest Human Development and have since been loyal volunteers.

The “best friends” began their adventures together when the pair met while teaching kindergarten in the same school. Through collaboration on best teaching practices, the pair quickly flourished into an inseparable duo who share a mission for making a difference in the lives of children in need.

Upon meeting 20 years ago, Myrna and Kathy knew in their hearts that they wanted to continue to help children in the community. Myrna took the lead in seeking volunteer opportunities, inviting Kathy to join her.

“I enjoy being able to help people, meet new people and, of course, spend time with my best friend,” says Myrna. “It’s a good opportunity to enjoy life.”

After years of participating in volunteer opportunities at various organizations, Myrna and Kathy began to seek out more unique takes on volunteering, which lead them to discover Southwest Human Development.

Myrna reached out to Volunteer Engagement Manager Annette Sutfin and learned of plentiful opportunities where she and Kathy could advocate for early literacy, help children in need and make an impact in the community. The match was a perfect fit.

Since first volunteering with Southwest Human Development in 2014, the pair continuously engages in a range of volunteer opportunities including delivering donated holiday gifts, assisting children in foster care and adoption programs, packing and delivering books for children in need and more. Myrna and Kathy find joy in hearing stories from children, parents and other dedicated volunteers.

“The community really cares about helping children,” Kathy says. “Children are our future. We have to take care of them.”

The diverse number of volunteer opportunities offered at Southwest Human Development keeps the life-long friends fresh and excited for the next. According to Myrna, the number of ways people can get involved makes each and every volunteer opportunity feel special.

Myrna and Kathy actively encourage others to get involved and occasionally invite their husbands to join in on the feel-good fun.

“When you give a little bit of your time, you receive more back,” says Kathy. “It makes you feel good. When you put your head on your pillow at night, you know you’ve made a difference.”

To learn more about volunteering at Southwest Human Development, visit