A Retiree’s Guide to Giving Back

United Way Hero

Bill Kessler is an AARP Experience Corp volunteer through United Way California Capital Region. After volunteering with the group for two years, he has been recognized as the first Volunteer of the Month.  He grins, eyes lighting up, excited to begin, and he warns me that once he starts, he just can’t stop.  While he had a full head of silver hair, something about him reminds me of a kid that was about to make a new friend on the playground. Bill had long and extensive careers in insurance, the armed forces, telecommunications, and even after working on rockets he retired and now is a master volunteer.  He spends two days a week for a few hours each day working with small groups of children who need extra help reading.  His story is like many people, had long careers and now finds himself with time on his hands after retirement.

When Bill was asked why he joined the AARP Experience Corps, he says that he feels like it’s his duty. “I had the excellent opportunity to go to school, I had the excellent opportunity to go to college – thanks to Uncle Sam – and I have to give back. I’ve wanted to do something like this for a long time, and I didn’t have the right vehicle,” he said.  

His site leaders explain that Bill teaches with grandfatherly wisdom and patience while he goes above and beyond for the students. He doesn’t just lead his assigned three groups of first and second graders, but individually tutors a student that aged out of the program, adds on other groups when needed, and reads to an entire class each week from his favorite novel – all on his break.  “I just can’t sit still when I am there,” he laughs. In addition to the Corps, he is actively involved with other organizations built around making life a little better the children in his area.

Like Bill, the group of retirees doesn’t approach the children’s learning setbacks as challenges, but opportunities to support. It is a group of lifelong learners who want to share their love of reading to the next generation. They revel in each other’s successes and triumphs. “Earlier this year, [one of my students] was struggling to keep up, now he is reading so nicely now, it gives me chills” one volunteer shares with a full smile on her face.

These seniors are breaking out of their comfort zone, and all feel that they are improving their physical and mental health.  So with so many fantastic causes to support, why get involved with the Experience Corps?  He leans in and squints his eyes with all seriousness, “did you know that California is one of the most populated states and yet our children are falling so far behind in reading? There’s something wrong with this picture.” Bill is right, there is, so what can be changed?

There is a high connection with literacy, poverty, and crime rates, but how do you start changing these numbers?  The easiest way is to get involved with a group like the Experience Corps. The group also recommends to keep searching for volunteer opportunities that excite you – this the time in your life for the fun, try something that you didn’t do at your job, and to find something that works with lifestyle.  To them, all that matters is that you do something.

Thank you, Bill and all of the AARP Experience Corps Volunteers for their continued dedication to supporting children’s education.

Interested in getting involved in the program? Click here to find out more.