Melanie Pohlenz (1991)

Disclaimer: The following was transcribed from an article in the Capper Foundation Archives published by The Topeka Capital Journal. The choice of words used at the time this was written may not reflect current Capper Foundation inclusive language and views.

She Brings Music to Their Lives (1991)

by Jan Landon

Melanie Pohlenz brought more than music to The Capper Foundation on Thursday afternoon. Through songs, Pohlenz and Capper students found a yodeling Austrian, hungry crocodiles and trees budding in springtime.

Pohlenz is a volunteer at Capper. She is a certified music teacher, but she opted to volunteer her time since she couldn’t find a job when she moved to Topeka. She is just one of 55 volunteers at Capper who will be honored in a program this afternoon. The volunteers will receive a button or flower and a certificate, and the Topeka Area Disabled Artists Association will entertain.

Pohlenz said the 3 ½ hours she spends each week at Capper is time well spent. She’s been visiting the school since last fall. On Thursday, she led Steven Combs, Melony Chillcott, Kirsten Price and Becky Wicker through numerous songs.

The children’s words may not have been exactly correct, and their motions may have lagged a bit behind, but the enthusiasm and enjoyment was obvious. They followed along as Pohlenz sang, and sometimes asked questions about the lyrics.

“I love working with the children,” Pohlenz said. “They’re a real joy. They look forward to me coming in and singing. It’s a beneficial thing for the children. These children need this kind of therapy.”

Pohlenz taught music for seven years in Oskaloosa, Iowa, public schools before marrying an area optometrist and moving to Topeka. She observed classes at Capper before deciding to volunteer, but would now encourage others to give their time.

Capper volunteers range in age from 14 to their late teens. Those volunteers include a group of 10 Hayden High School students, who spend an hour each day at Capper. Each month people volunteer about 10 hours of their time.

“They volunteer daytime hours, night time hours and weekend hours,” said Jeanette Waters, volunteer coordinator for the foundation. “I can’t begin to express how important they are.”

She added about half the volunteers all have full-time jobs. Waters said without Pohlenz volunteering her skills, the Capper children wouldn’t be exposed to a certified music teacher.