Finding Reward in Getting Uncomfortable

by Gray Davis, a Hands On Charlotte volunteer

In 2010, I was “retired” by the Great Recession when my building industry job disappeared. It’s hard to do nothing and feel good about yourself, so I began volunteering with Second Harvest Food Bank. After a bicycle accident and knee replacement surgery made it unfeasible to continue, I reached out to Hands On Charlotte in search of something new.

Doug Macomb at Hands On Charlotte challenged me to get out of my comfort zone by tutoring kids. I don’t have grandkids, so I wasn’t used to interacting with children anymore. But five months into volunteering, the students enjoy my help and I’m getting as much out of the experience as they are.

In Charlotte, you’re not going to make it without a good education. If you have language barriers, the odds are stacked against you even more. So the Study Buddies program at Learning Help Community Center in south Charlotte helps immigrant and refugee children, particularly from low-income families.

I volunteer two nights a week helping elementary school students with their homework. Some are behind their peers, but they’re very eager to learn – they want to be there.

Others want to get ahead, like a 3rd grader from Cameroon. She’s amazing, speaks both French and English. She’s reading at a 5th grade level, but her parents encourage her to participate to advance further.

Volunteering has really given me a spark. I like the mental exercise, it keeps me sharp. And Hands On Charlotte and the Learning Center are very organized – I’m impressed with their focus and their mission.

At 68, I still have a lot to contribute to this community, and volunteering allows me to do that. Being able to share my knowledge has been extremely rewarding, and I encourage everyone to get out of their comfort zone too.

To learn more about the Study Buddies program or other volunteer opportunities, contact Hands On Charlotte’s Doug Macomb at

2 thoughts on “Finding Reward in Getting Uncomfortable

  1. We so appreciate the partnership with Hands on Charlotte and the enthusiasm, experience and encouragement of the many volunteers that we have received this school year. They say “You can’t teach an ol’ dog new tricks… but education in public schools is so different from previous generation that we can all certainly learn new tricks!” Let the child show you the way they do things, and we encourage them to slow down, not guess, and think about their answers. And ask questions of volunteers. We are so pleased to be able to help every student on a 1-to-1 basis with enthusiastic volunteers, like Gray, and many others from Hands on Charlotte, faith houses, and corporations across our Queen City. Thank you for the partnership HOC… and our children, thank your awesome volunteers as well.

    As my fellow countryman says “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela. And at LHCC, we agree, one child at a time!

  2. Hi Gray – like you I’m retired and started volunteering for study buddies, but unlike you I’ve only been at it for a few weeks. I enjoy it in part because I like to teach, something I didn’t get much of an opportunity to do during my 45 years in banking, but mostly I enjoy knowing that I have an opportunity to help a child get ahead. We do math and we read, but we also frequently go off topic to bring life to math problems and reading text – how these apply to the real world and what they might mean to the children’s future. Happy to be sharing our mutual interest. All the best,

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