WESTBROOK – With Popsicles in hand, students at Westbrook’s Saccarappa Elementary School lined up in the school’s garden Monday to give longtime volunteer Polly Carmichael birthday cards for her 90th birthday.

Carmichael – known to the children as “Grammy Polly” – has been volunteering in the Westbrook school system for 22 years, and has been in the Opportunity Alliance’s Foster Grandparent program for just as long.

Carmichael volunteers at the school from 8 a.m.-noon every day.

Naeve Tardif, a 6-year-old kindergarten student at Saccarappa, said during the birthday celebration that Carmichael helps her and her classmates each morning.

“She reads with us every morning and helps us sound out the words,” she said.

According to Crystle Card, a teacher at Saccarappa, Carmichael worked for many years at Congin Elementary, and made the move to Saccarappa with Card during the district’s reconfiguration two years ago. When Carmichael is assisting with a teacher who is retiring, she joins another class. This year, she was asked to remain with her current class, taught by Guyla Woodbrey, until Woodbrey retires in 2019.

Brian Mazjanis, the Saccarappa school principal, said Tuesday that Carmichael began working more with kindergarten students last year, and enjoys it.

“She reads with them just as a parent or grandparent would do with their kids,” he said. “It’s really helpful for their development.”

Mazjanis added that as a volunteer, Carmichael gains as much from the students as she gives.

“She adds value to our school, and in a lot of ways, we add value to her life,” he said. “She looks forward to coming here, and when you can find those situations that are absolutely win-win, you can’t beat it.”

Susan Lavigne, director of Senior Volunteer Programs for the Opportunity Alliance, said Monday that Carmichael’s birthday also coincides with national Senior Corps week, which celebrates senior volunteers throughout the country. The Opportunity Alliance’s Foster Grandparent program is part of a national network.

Lavigne said that she has known Carmichael for her entire tenure in the program.

“She is an amazing woman, and not only an inspiration to the children, staff and leadership at the school, but I would say she’s also an inspiration to the staff here at the Foster Grandparent program,” she said.

Carmichael, who lives on Saco Street on the farm that she grew up on, said prior to working in the schools, she had been looking after her aging mother, Eleanor Waterhouse, until she died at age 102.

Carmichael at one time worked at the former Saunders Mill. She is still physically active. She helps care for her daughter’s horses, mows the lawn from time to time, and recently bought a wood-splitter.

“It’s the best thing I ever bought,” she said. “I don’t do it all the time, but I can.”

The celebration surprised Carmichael.

“I didn’t know it was going to be this big,” she said. “It was quite the surprise.”

“Thank you all,” she yelled over the noise of the kindergarten classes, as students hugged her.

Polly Carmichael, known to many as “Grammy Polly,” accepts birthday cards from kindergarten students at Westbrook’s Saccarappa Elementary School on Monday, in celebration of her 90th birthday. Carmichael has been volunteering in Westbrook schools for 22 years.   A kindergartner at Saccarappa Elementary School hugs “Grammy Polly” Carmichael during a Popsicle party celebrating her 90th birthday Monday. Carmichael, who has volunteered in Westbrook schools for 22 years, said she was surprised with how big the celebration was.  

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