It seems difficult for employers to find high-quality workers these days, for whatever reason, and they’re getting paid.

Dependable volunteers are becoming rarer and more valuable by the day, it appears, so people like Pat Cooksey are few and far between.

Debbie Criss, Ponderosa Elementary’s librarian, inherited Cooksey, 75, as a hard-to-match asset 14 years ago — and Cooksey has been by her side two to three days a week throughout nearly two decades.

Cooksey has “retired,” and the school honored her with a surprise celebratory gathering on Wednesday. She was “flabbergasted,” she said, but still spoke from the heart and delivered a moving speech in front of faculty in attendance. She showed her sense of humor as she shared a couple of comical stories, too.

Cooksey, one can quickly observe, has been a volunteer whose impact is immeasurable.

Volunteers are always impressive because of one simple fact: They’re unpaid. They do what they do out of the kindness of their hearts and for causes they care deeply about.

For Cooksey, the joy she experienced by seeing a kid smile as a result of reading something that interested that child kept her returning to the Boyd County school. She said Wednesday that every day she stepped foot inside the Ponderosa building, she walked away from the school a better, happier person at the end of the day.

Community volunteers like Cooksey should never be taken for granted. While northeastern Kentucky is fortunate enough to have a pretty high number of Pat Cookseys, we shouldn’t just assume the next Pat Cooksey is going to walk around the corner soon.

We should be inspired by her voluntary work, and perhaps each of us can discover a few extra hours and find an avenue where we can be of unpaid assistance. Let’s not allow volunteering hearts to become lost commodities.

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