Editor's Note: This story is part of The Partnership Project, a series of content written in an effort by The Daily News to follow the formal collaboration of Ball State University and Muncie Community Schools.
At 5:30 every morning, two hours and 40 minutes before the tardy bell rings, Mike Lewis gets to North View Elementary. He goes into the library of the 330-student elementary school to laminate or cut papers for various teachers.
He doesn’t start his job as a librarian until 7:40 a.m., when he helps serve breakfast to students in the cafeteria.
You name it, Lewis does it. From bagging popcorn at school events to scanning library books when students check them out. Without his help, 4th grade teacher Elizabeth Gillentine said she simply couldn’t do her job.
“He has been an absolute godsend,” Gillentine said. “There’s nothing he’s ever said no to. I don’t think we have seen too many other volunteers like him before — in this building anyways.”
Lewis has been a volunteer at North View since 2007 when he started reshelving books, making popcorn, setting up tables and chairs and doing anything else needed for school programs.
While Lewis takes on a multitude of tasks daily, he doesn't get paid. In fact, two years ago, he willfully turned down the paid librarian position he was offered.
Lewis receives pension from his ten years of service in the U.S. Army, which he said pays for everything he needs. Upon joining in 1947, he was stationed as infantry in Hawaii for three years before being sent to Italy, American Samoa and many others places to do work in finance.
“I make enough to survive, and I’m not greedy,” Lewis said. “If I was getting paid, I’d be [in the library]. I can do lunch, I can do can [collections], I can do [accelerated reading]. I’m all around. So if I was [getting paid], I’d be [in the library] only.”
After seeing the world, Lewis decided to come back to his hometown, Muncie. He has since stayed because of his family — his wife of 40 years, Rita, two daughters and three grandchildren — and because of the work he does not only for North View but for other schools in Muncie Community Schools (MCS).
“Everyone here knows me. I’ve been [at North View], Sutton, West View, Southside [and] South View, all [as a] volunteer.” Lewis said. “I used to work at the carnivals when they had them at South View. That’s where my daughter was at.”
Several times throughout the day, Lewis helps students return and renew books in the 9,500-book library. He puts on his reading glasses — he can’t read anything without them — and scans books to renew them or check them out.
Students are allowed two books at once, and if a student has an outstanding book, they can’t check another one out until that one has been returned. Lewis sternly but gently stands by this rule and always offers a smile.
Because of the work he does with children and his dedication, Lewis was presented the Muncie Rotary Club's Very Important Volunteer Award (VIVA) in 2013. According to the Muncie Rotary Club website, this award is given to five individuals every year “to recognize Delaware County’s proud volunteer heritage.“
Lewis said he chooses to volunteer around MCS because not only does he love staying busy, he loves the kids he works with.
“I consider really all these kids to be my grandkids. I could probably tell you all their names,” Lewis said. “I’ll do anything for anybody who needs it.”
Lewis' co-workers at North View agree there is no way they could do their jobs without his help, and that he is a joy to work with.
“I just like working with him; he’s a very nice man,” Gillentine said. “I don’t think you’re going to find a super star better than that. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an ‘S’ underneath that t-shirt.”
Contact Demi Lawrence with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.