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Illness inspires Boys and Girls Club volunteer
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More photos from this shoot
Photo: Aaron Facemire
Lore Shelton is a volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club of the Mississippi Valley in Moline.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Aaron Facemire
Lore Shelton helps Micah Sandoval with her homework at the Boys and Girls Club of the Mississippi Valley in Moline on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2011.

MOLINE -- Lore Shelton is in hot demand in the "power hour" room. She moves from desk to desk and from little raised hand to little raised hand. She's in constant motion, but each interaction is kind and patient.

At one point, during one of her regular Wednesday afternoon volunteer shifts at the Boys and Girls Club of the Mississippi Valley, she sits on a padded bench and leans from one table on her right and another on her left to help two girls simultaneously as they work through their homework.

As she makes her rounds, three refrains often are repeated like mantras: "You can do it. I know you can." "Keep going, keep going." "Just a minute, I'll be right there." Each of the 24 hard-working students receives Ms. Shelton's full attention, and each stumbling block is worked through together with patience.

High-demand jobs with a top priority of caring for others is Ms. Shelton's modus operandi. She worked for nearly 30 years as a clinical information specialist for Genesis Visiting Nurse. She said those days were filled with 60-hour work weeks and after-hours phone calls.

Her life changed after a diagnosis of viral encephalitis in February 2010. Ms. Shelton said she wasn't feeling well during a long weekend in Las Vegas. When she returned from the trip, she ended up in the emergency room.

"I'm considered a brain injury survivor," said Ms. Shelton, 52, who now is a member of the Brain Injury Association of Iowa. "I'm very fortunate."

Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain, most commonly caused by viral infections, according to Mayo Clinic. It can cause flu-like symptoms, including fever or severe headaches, or confused thinking, seizures and problems with senses or movement. Encephalitis, which can go undetected, can be life-threatening in severe cases.

Ms. Shelton called the diagnosis a "life-altering experience" and said for a long time she was unable to leave her home because of her illness. She left the job she was so passionately dedicated to -- so much so that her son called her a workaholic -- and started carving out a new path.

"I'm definitely still trying to figure out what it is I'm supposed to be doing," Ms. Shelton said.

One piece of the puzzle, she said, is the Boys and Girls Club. She's a faithful Wednesday volunteer because she said Moline schools release early on that day, and she knows the schedule change can be hard on families.

"Because of the support I get, I just want to give back," Ms. Shelton said. "I look for the positives. You get it from the staff here, and you get it from the kids."

Ms. Shelton bubbles over when she talks about the inspiration and energy she gets from the kids she volunteers with.

"These kids, I tell ya," she said. "They're good kids. They are grateful."

The proof is in Ms. Shelton's autograph book, which makes her seem more like a tween pop star than a community member lending a hand. Ms. Shelton pulls the notebook out of her pocket and shows off page after page of colorful autographs, drawings and doodles from her adoring fans.

Ms. Shelton said she wrote on the book, "My friends show me some love!," and that's exactly what the kids did. She said she now carries it around as a pick-me-up for whenever she could use a smile.

Ms. Shelton said the kids who come to the Moline club are phenomenal and said the same about the staff members.

"The thing I like most about the club is they support a healthy body, mind and soul," Ms. Shelton said.

Club executive director Becky Clark said Ms. Shelton is a vital part of what the club does and said she is as good with students in the homework room as she is in the computer lab, dance room or any other space where she is needed.

"It's just a bonus any time you can have a volunteer make such a commitment," Ms. Clark said. "She's wonderful. She just interacts really good with the kids -- sincere and genuine. That's what it's all about. You can't teach that to someone."

Club unit director Liz Zimmerman agreed Ms. Shelton is great at what she does.

"Lore is by far one of our most dedicated volunteers," Ms. Zimmerman said. "She loves to jump in and is never in one place."

Changing the dream

Who: Lore Shelton, Boys and Girls Club of the Mississippi Valley volunteer

Quote: "Because of the support I get, I just want to give back. I look for the positives. You get it from the staff here, and you get it from the kids."

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