Joe Olsen and his dog volunteer with Independence third graders - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Joe Olsen and his dog volunteer with Independence third graders


Once a week, Joe Olsen and his dog Mulligan visit Helen Lukes' third grade class at West Elementary in Independence.

"I'm a dog lover as well so we just talked about having Mulligan and Mr. Olsen come in. So he's been reading to my students this is the fourth year," said Helen Lukes.

Mr. Olsen reads for 30 minutes, while Mulligan makes his way through the students.

"I love doing it. It's great to read and meet all these kids and share the dogs as well," said Joe Olsen.

During this visit, Olsen also brought Mulligan's brother, Hercules. Both Irish Setters enjoy the attention from the students.

"Most everybody has an animal or wants to have an animal, so pets are what's in everybody's hearts," said Olsen.

Teacher Helen Lukes believes these visits have a positive impact on her students.

"I think the most important thing they get from it is just the love of reading, and then the love of animals as well," said Helen Lukes.

The love of animals was demonstrated when last year's third graders organized a penny wars fundraiser and collected more than $1,000 for the Buchanan County Animal Shelter.

Mr. Olsen and Mulligan show the positive impact you can have on a child's life, and it's as simple as volunteering 30 minutes of your time once a week.

"He creates a lasting impression, he's just a good person," said Lukes.

Joe Olsen has volunteered and mentored with Independence schools for years, he said he simply loves being around the students. Previously, he was a social worker for the Area Education Agency. He and Mulligan have also taken some dog therapy classes.

Mr. Olsen and Mulligan plan to continue visiting Helen Lukes' class for reading and for some pats on the fur.

Joe Olsen is known around Independence for his numerous roles in the community, including the Brew BQ in August, the Independence Farmers Market and the Mustang Foundation.

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