PUBLISHED: 4:36 PM on Wednesday, May 2, 2007
'Cookie lady' honored for time with students

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  Earline Smith receives a hug from a student at Johnson Youth Center during a party celebrating Smith as Juneau Volunteer of the Year from the National Senior Service Corp.
Bringing cookies and playing dominoes might seem like small gestures, but to the students at Johnson Youth Center it can be the highlight of each week. It is those kind of gestures that earned Earline Smith the honor of Volunteer of the Year for Juneau from the National Senior Service Corp.

For more than 10 years, Smith has been making weekly visits to Johnson Youth Center where she talks with students there, brings them cookies and plays dominoes. She said she started volunteering for something to do and looks forward to talking to the students.

"They call me the cookie lady," Smith said. "It's progressed over the years. At one time I was tutoring, but lately I have been teaching them social graces through dominoes. It's fun. I like it."

The students seem to like it to, and it's noticeable as Smith walks into the room. The mood of the room seems to brighten as Smith enters and boys offer her their seats.

"She's like the grandma some of us never had," one boy said.

"She's very understanding and non-judgmental," another boy said. "She's always trying to help and she's really caring and giving."

Former JYC supervisor Greg Roth said Smith's visits to the center are encouraging to the students there.

"There's a magic that happens when she walks in a room. She creates a bubble of safety and love around her, and the kids know it, recognize it and appreciate it," Roth said. "She accepts them unconditionally, which none of us can get enough of."