Riverdale Elementary is home for longtime volunteer

Special photo
Carlton Ethridge, right, is an extraordinary volunteer. Here he assists student Netasha Winters with a state-mandated hearing screening.

Special photo Carlton Ethridge, right, is an extraordinary volunteer. Here he assists student Netasha Winters with a state-mandated hearing screening.

Through the years, the faces of teachers, staff and students have changed continually at Riverdale Elementary School. However, there’s one person who has remained dedicated to the school.

His name is Carlton Ethridge. Though many of the current teachers and staff confessed they hardly recognize him at the school, Ethridge, 78, of Riverdale, has walked the halls at Riverdale Elementary for a decade, volunteering his time for events such as greeting kids on day one, hearing screenings, and student mentoring. Ethridge, who was once a student at the school in 1939, said giving back is what he was placed on this Earth to do.

“I just enjoy being around children,” Ethridge said. “If the school calls and tells me they need help, I’m there.”

The phone calls, he added, usually come from his long-time friend, Frankie Lynn Clardy, a former school counselor for Riverdale Elementary. “[Mrs. Clardy] still has a close connection with the school, so I get all my information from her,” he said.

Clardy said her career at the school spanned for 39 years and she retired from the school two years ago. But she still finds herself volunteering at the school in her spare time. She added during her years at the school Ethridge was one of those volunteers she could always count on.

“He’s a very unique and wonderful man,” said Clardy. “He has such a giving spirit.”

She said she met Ethridge at Riverdale First Baptist Church, where they both are members. She added during the church announcements she would always inform people of the volunteering opportunities at the school. Ethridge, she said, would always be the first one to sign up to help.

“He’s just always been very faithful,” she said. “One time I asked him to mentor a young boy for me and he taught him how to play chess.”

Though very few staff and teachers are familiar with Ethridge, those who have met him in passing lavished him with praises. One counselor at the school described him as being one of the kindest men she has ever met.

“What I admire about him the most is his caring spirit and his pleasant award-winning smile which serves as a welcome for all students,” said the counselor, who did not want to be identified. “Ethridge uses every opportunity to give back to his beloved elementary school and the students he cares for so deeply.”

Ethridge said he has lived in Riverdale his whole life and has two daughters and a son, two of whom also attended Riverdale Elementary.

In addition to volunteering his time at the school and in the community, Ethridge said he served on the City of Riverdale’s Planning and Zoning board for 31 years and worked as an engineer in the city for 45 years.

When Ethridge was asked what he loves most about Riverdale, he said it’s the people and the community. When it comes to serving his community and helping at youngsters, Ethridge said Riverdale Elementary has become a very special home for him.

“If I’m able, I will be volunteering for a long time at the school,” said Ethridge. “I get satisfaction for just helping people — it’s a good feeling to have.”