Benn volunteers in schools, community

Published 10:38 pm Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a weekly series of stories running through February, Black History Month, that will focus on the unique contributions of various African-Americans in Suffolk.

Priscilla Benn has survived colon cancer, a kidney transplant and open-heart surgery, but that hasn’t kept her from volunteering her time to help children.


“I love working with children, so any opportunity I have, I usually do whatever involves children,” she said.

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Benn retired from teaching after a 40-year career, but you wouldn’t know it. She can be seen in the schools so often as a substitute teacher that some folks think she still works there.

But the incredible part is that she isn’t paid the daily stipend for substitute teachers — she volunteers.

“I just love working with children,” she said, by way of explanation. “I really just like volunteering.”

Benn also uses her talents to mentor young people at Booker T. Washington Elementary School and tutors students without charge.

“I talk to them about issues and goals, the kind of things that will help them become a better citizen,” Benn said. “They have so many things going at them, I want to help them get through it and try to get them in a positive frame of mind.”

Benn is involved in numerous organizations, including Links Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the Suffolk Retired Teachers Association and the East Suffolk Alumni Association. All the groups, as well as her church, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, do various types of community service in which she participates.

Benn also sings in the choir and teaches Bible study and Sunday school — to children, of course — at her church.

Benn, whose husband is the nephew of Mack Benn Jr. after whom the elementary school on Nansemond Parkway was named, said she continued volunteering as much as possible throughout her physical ailments, prompting some to call her “the Energizer bunny.”

“It keeps me going,” she said. “I just go out and do what I do. I don’t dwell on what’s wrong with me.”

Benn also said more people are needed to pitch in with community projects and helping the youth of the community.

“I just wish more people would help,” she said.