Tom Milner knows what it’s like to change young lives.

Kami Knight and Brent Beeler, both first-graders, practice reading under the watchful eye of volunteer Tom Milner.

The North Terre Haute resident has done just that as a volunteer with Educational/Family Services (EFS), a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Providence and a Guerin Outreach Ministries program. Youngsters tutored by Tom progress at a steady pace. In some cases, the end result is dramatic.

“(Tom tutored) a child and brought them up three grade levels in one semester,” Penny Sullivan, EFS director, said. Tom’s the kind of volunteer you like to have around, she adds, because he’s punctual, efficient, a gentleman and dedicated.

Others see those qualities in Tom, too. In fact, parents of children being tutored, and even some of the youngsters themselves, have specifically asked that Tom be their tutor, Penny said.

Tom believes that could be due to how he approaches tutoring. “I try to make it fun,” he said, “and I try to play educational games with them.”

Outside of tutoring, Tom works as an NFI trucking company employee which is a major player in the Staples warehouse operation in Terre Haute. His interests include working on computers and movies.

Tom became interested in tutoring after hearing a radio commercial featuring Sister Becky Keller, coordinator of Sisters of Providence Volunteer Services, talking about the program. He went online to read more about Volunteer Services and then contacted Sister Becky.

The Volunteer Services program has been as good for Tom as tutoring has been for the children. “It makes me feel that I have a purpose in life, and it’s hard sometimes to find a purpose,” he explained.

The EFS program operates its adult tutoring program year-round, while youths from kindergarten through to fifth grade participate during the regular school year. For the youngsters, signups are now under way for new tutoring sessions which begin this fall. Tutors meet with the youths in a Hulman Hall classroom on the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College campus. The children’s parents wait patiently in the hallway until the 45-minute session ends.

People thinking about being a tutor should give it a try, according to Tom.

Tom said some adults he has spoken with seem shy about tutoring because either they don’t believe they have the ability or they don’t want to be embarrassed if a child knows answers they don’t. “They can outsmart you,” he said, of the children. “That happens sometimes.”

But what’s really important is connecting with youths in a positive way, to reinforce their efforts with words of encouragement and help boost their academic performance.

“I get a lot of compliments,” Tom said, of his tutoring abilities. “It gives me something to do, and you always feel as though people appreciate it.”

Questions? To learn more about how you can be a part of this dynamic ministry, contact Sister Rebecca “Becky” Keller, Volunteer Services coordinator, at 812-535-2878 or rkeller@spsmw.org.