Retired teachers still helping students

By Mac McLean / The Bulletin / @agingbeat

Mary Reed taught mentally and physically disabled students at the Salem-Keizer and Crook County public school systems for nearly half of her life.

But even though Reed, a 73-year-old Prineville resident, spent 31 years with these two school systems, she wasn’t about to walk away from her role as an advocate for some of her community’s neediest children when she retired from Crook County Middle School in 1998.

“There’s always something that needs to be done,” said Reed, who continues to work for Central Oregon’s neediest children as a member of the Oregon Retired Education Association’s local chapter. She joined this 35-member group 15 years ago and has served as its president for the past four.

Founded in 1969, the Central Oregon Retired Educators Association is part of a statewide group that brings together the region’s retired school administrators, teachers, school secretaries and school support staff.

Its members, along with retired educators who belong to the Delta Kappa Gamma Society, a nationwide teaching sorority, spend time in retirement giving back to the communities they served during their careers as educators.

“You just keep giving,” said Carol Bicart, president of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society’s Sigma Chapter, a group of retired women educators in Central Oregon. “It’s in our blood.”

Bicart, who took over as the Sigma Chapter’s president one year after Reed gave up the office, continues to work as a substitute teacher for the Jefferson County school system even though she retired from her career as a full-time teacher at Westside Elementary School 10 years ago.

She also keeps her eyes open for deals on blankets, crayons, coloring books, knitted hats, toys and wash cloths she and the 15 other members of her group assemble into care bags they deliver to the county’s Head Start students every March.

These bags also feature donated toothbrushes the chapter’s members collect from area dentists, Bicart said.

“For so few people, we’re doing a lot,” Bicart said, explaining members of her group also volunteer with other community organizations in need of help. “There just seems to be so much more demand (for help) these days.”

Members of Reed’s group run a series of similar projects, collecting granola bars for school breakfast programs and peanut butter for a meal program run by Jericho Road in Redmond.

The association’s members also put together handwritten Christmas and birthday cards for disabled people who are served by the Opportunity Foundation of Central Oregon, and lap blankets that help chemotherapy patients at the St. Charles Cancer Center in Redmond stay warm during their treatments.

“There’s a lady in Bend who knits stocking caps for us,” Reed said, describing another project the association’s members work on each year.

Both groups also make sure there will be another group of teachers and educators to take their place by issuing scholarships to students who study education. The retired educators association gives $1,000 to the Central Oregon Community College Foundation each year to help students who are studying education while the Delta Kappa Gamma’s state and national offices dole out dozens of scholarships each year to women who pursue an education degree.

Join a group

The Central Oregon Retired Educators Association and the Delta Kappa Gamma Society’s Sigma Chapter are both groups of retired educators who continue to play an active role in serving their communities. Here’s where you can find out more about each group:

* Central Oregon Retired Educators Association: Group members meet at the Zion Lutheran Church, 1113 S.W. Black Butte Blvd. in Redmond, at noon on the third Wednesday of every month. Call Mary Reed at 541-447-6926.

* Delta Kappa Gamma: Email Carol Biscart at kari@bendnet.com, or call 541-771-9426.