Nurse Kaplan celebrates upcoming 80th birthday
By Carolyn Bowden
Helle Kaplan’s interest in tennis declined and she began to volunteer at QV Elementary where she assisted a 4th grade teacher and her students. When there was an opening for the school nurse position she applied and was hired. There she remained for 25 years, making a positive difference in the lives of not only the students, but also the teachers. She was instrumental in establishing many programs that started at QV Elementary, and have now become an integral part of the Fort Bend School District.
In the 1980’s the enrollment at QV Valley Elementary was a blend of QV residents, rental homes and trailers. One of Helle’s first helpful ideas came from a request by a grandfather who wanted his children and grandchildren to learn about the “art of giving” to others. It was then that Helle had the idea (originally from the grandfather) that she would start accepting Thanksgiving and Christmas gifts for the children who would not necessarily be celebrating either holiday. So she began to match the families who wanted to teach the “art of giving” with those who were less fortunate…..and a “tradition” was born.
When a QV Elementary School family lost “everything” in a trailer home fire, Helle came to the rescue. Word got out throughout the Quail Valley Community and Helle was able to receive “gently used” clothing for this family. There was such an abundance of clothing items that Helle had to secure a large utility closet at the school to house the needed clothing.
Many of the students’ homes adjacent to the Quail Valley Subdivision did not have running water. The school clinic, with its shower stall, allowed children to shower and put on clean clothes thanks to the “Clothing Closet”. TODAY, this “Clothing Closet”, manned by volunteers, is called “Shared Dreams” and is a District-wide Program in FBISD.
It was during this time that Helle was given the First QV Exchange Club Award (“Book of Golden Deeds”) because of all her service to this community. In addition, she helped the QV Exchange Club set up and co-ordinate a program where each member “adopted” a family at Christmas time. The members provided clothing, food and toys for each child in that family as well as the parents. This Act of Kindness, adopted by the QV Exchange Club, lives on even to this day…..thanks to Helle.
Helle’s days were not always spent in the clinic. She sometimes had to go to the class room to help the teacher with nursing matters. On one of those days her attention was drawn to a particular student. This young girl was a 3rd grader, spoke no English but it was obvious to Helle that she was exceptionally bright. Helle befriended this child, along with her parents. She mentored her through elementary, middle and high school where she graduated. With Helle’s guidance she was able to attend the University of Houston where she graduated with an accounting degree. Helle was present to see her get her college diploma!
Helle was full of life and found humor in almost every type of situation. The school teachers still laugh about how Helle would come up with ways to keep them awake during those long after-school meetings. Helle touched the lives of many students and their families. Here are a few of those stories as told by the students.
“Ms. Kaplan had a great deal of patience. I would fake an illness at school in order to go visit her. Ms. Kaplan was gentle and kind. She probably knew I was not sick and just needed some ‘TLC’.” “Everybody liked to go to the clinic to see Ms. Kaplan. She always wore a smile and she she liked all the kids, no matter who they were. I don’t think she ever had a bad day at school.”
“ When I needed sleep because I had stayed up too late I would “fake” an illness. Ms. Kaplan would always allow me to take just a short nap on those awesome brown vinyl beds.”
“When I was in 5th grade I wanted to skip class. I thought the teacher was mean. Mrs. Kaplan had my ‘back’, and let me stay.”
One of Helle’s favorite stories to share was how children, especially kindergartners, would want to come to her clinic. They complained of a hurt finger. I would examine the entire hand and find nothing. The child would extend the other hand and say, “There it is, Ms. Kaplan” and I (with a smiling face) would put a band-aid on it and the child went promptly back to class. I believed that band-aids cured lots of “hurts”.
Let us help Helle Kaplan celebrate her 80th birthday. Send her a birthday card and write your own “Special Memory” of her. Mail your card to: Helle Kaplan, 6327 Thunder Ridge Circle, Hoschton, Georgia, 30548.
Let us all make an effort to flood her mailbox!
Information for this article is courtesy of Charlene Quast.
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