Alex stops outside his third-grade classroom and gives 73-year-old Charles Hoar a quick
hug. "Good-bye, Charlie," Alex says softly as he wanders in to rejoin his
Charlie smiles. "This is the advantage of the
OASIS program," he says. "It gives us the opportunity to be with the kids."
Being with kids is what Charlie Hoar does these days. The retired widower from Sherwood,
Ore., devotes his time and talents to youth-oriented programs such as D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse
Resistance Education) and P.A.L. (Police Activities League) under the umbrellas of the
local Sherwood Youth Association. He sits on the board of the Sherwood Education
Foundation, a group that raises money to enhance local school programs. He's a devoted
member of the Elks Lodge, Kiwanis and the Rotary Club and writes a monthly column for the
Charlie works in the schools, helping out
where he sees a need. When the school library needed books, he bought them with his own
money. He purchased a complete set of National Geographics on compact disk to be shared by
the school district libraries and the local city library. And he spends an hour each week
with Alex, as a friend, a mentor and an OASIS tutor.
OASIS is a national program founded in 1982
as a resource for older adults who want to stay active and challenged during their
retirement years. One of its most visible activities is an Intergenerational Tutoring
Program, which pairs seniors with students. They work one-on-one on reading skills and on
developing self-esteem and positive attitudes toward learning.
OASIS tutors are working in 16 U.S. cities.
Volunteers share lifetimes of experience and wisdom with children who need extra help. At
Alex's elementary school, Charlie is one of 17 volunteers who work individually with 26
On a Tuesday morning, Charlie and Alex are
poring over "The Encyclopedia of Extremely Weird Animals." It's a tough book.
Alex reads aloud. He stops occasionally to comment on a subject that is his passion:
"Do you know how to draw a picture of
a snake?" Alex asks.
Charlie chuckles. "We're pretty good
buddies," he says.
Charlie and Alex have worked together for
two years. They read together, they work on comprehension and they have fun. They play
cards. Alex is learning poker, and Charlie teases him about changing the rules. Charlie
encourages Alex to draw by bringing in books, pictures and materials for inspiration. Alex
invited Charlie to be his guest at his annual Cub Scout dinner. Charlie, on a trip to
Louisiana, found a stuffed crocodile head. He bought it and carried it back to Alex. On
this day, Alex is reading about green tree pythons.
"How are you going to read those big
names? Charlie challenges him.
"You're going to help me!" Alex
shoots back with a grin.
"Sound it out," Charlie says. And
Charlie grew up in Massachusetts, spent
time in the Navy's amphibious forces and graduated from Midshipman's School at Notre Dame.
He worked for years as an engineer in various states.
His wife, Shirley, died in 1997 after a
28-year marriage. Shirley was a nurse Charlie met on a blind date. "When she opened
the door that first time, I said 'I'm not letting this lady get away.' She had the
loveliest little smile of anyone I know."
Charlie has five children, nine
grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He also has all the kids he helps through his
many volunteer activities. He regrets that divorce, alcoholism (he had his last drink in
1962) and working kept him from seeing his own children grow up. His work with the young
people of his community is a way of making up for that loss.
"What goes around comes around,"
Charlie says. "And I have more fun than the kids do."
For information about the OASIS
Intergenerational Tutoring Program, call 314-862-2933. Or e-mail to OASISInst@aol.com/