The Volunteer Spirit : Myrtle Faye Rumph Turned Her Grief into Giving. She Wants Others to ‘Catch the Vision’ and Donate Their Time and Skills to Help Children.


When my son died, I was devastated. It was like somebody snatched my heart out. I said, “I am not going to put a period behind his name.”

I woke with a vision of my son’s name in lights on buildings across the country. I could see children inside the buildings, studying, playing and learning to respect life. I thought, “If only I could get others to catch hold of this same vision.”

I began in my living room, with my husband, Harris, family and friends. We talked about what we could do to make a difference. We began with donated items. It seemed everyone close to me understood how important our efforts were. Everyone understood when I made “Catch the Vision” our theme.


We started the center in a storefront with four taggers, some 11- to 13-year-olds who lived on the next street. They stopped tagging and helped paint the center.

A 9-year-old came to us with a note from her mother: “I hope you can teach her to read--I can’t.” In six months she went from a D to an A in reading. Now, we have more than 100 participants, ages 8 to 18, and we’ve just moved the center to a larger facility across the street from the original Western Avenue site.

Still, money is tight. We need people to get involved in teaching, tutoring, supervising games. We need homework helpers, bilingual instructors. We have roughly 20 volunteers, but ideally we’d like to have one tutor for every two students. With math, as with reading, we need tutors who are patient enough to sit down with the kids and show them techniques. Sometimes they’ll need help with simple multiplication. Each of these children requires individual attention.

Volunteers are the backbone of this organization. We need help in the office, people who can update mailing lists, file, make phone calls, do maintenance and repairs. There is always something to do. There is no set amount of time required--15 minutes is OK, if that’s all you have.

Willie Woods

Woods, a Federal Express courier who lives in Carson, teaches karate at the center. His minister encouraged him to get involved with the program.

We have 15 students and I can take them where I’ve gone--tournaments, the nationals, the medals. I can help them stay out of trouble, away from drugs and alcohol. I don’t teach them violence, I teach them self-control, self-discipline, confidence and respect. I can be a role model. And, if I can turn them from peer pressure, gang activity, I’ve accomplished something.


One 7-year-old kid really has a future. He’s a hyper kid, and I want to enforce that type of energy in tournaments. Since Tae Kwon Do has become an Olympic sport, his and other parents have something to encourage their children to get involved in. I do this because somebody took time out for me.

Pauline Morris Lewis

Lewis, a Gardena resident and library assistant at El Camino College, volunteers as the center’s librarian and teaches health and beauty to girls. A friend told her Rumph was looking for volunteers.

You work, try to do for your family and you’ve got more left in your heart.

My husband and I volunteered--I saw books stacked against the wall and said, “Hey, I can help get your books together!”

We’re putting together a reference library; primarily, we need reference books. Soon we’ll be able to start loaning books.

In my health and beauty class, we talk about hygiene and attitudes. We also talk about staying in school.

I’m giving of myself. I’m giving to the kids that might not get enough adult attention. The attention I give might turn one around.

Mary Talbot

Talbot, a Torrance housewife, is the center’s reading instructor. She volunteered her time after reading about Rumph’s efforts.

After the riots, I waited to see what the government would do. They didn’t do anything. People were afraid, but I thought, I am not going to sit back. Neighbors near the center say “Hello.” I’ve never had a problem.

I get love from the children. After you get to know them, they’ll come in and talk to you, share their lives: “My grandmother died,” or “My dog got run over.” You become friends. Now, we have a separate reading room. The kids want to read so badly. I need help. I can’t get to all the kids.