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Volume V Issue XXXVII

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Erin Brady Worsham: Breathtaking Metamorphosis
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Seattle Washington USA

 

CHARLIE HOAR: A FRIEND IN DEED
by ANNEVOEGTLIN

 

Nine-year-old 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 classmates.

picture2Charlie 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 local newspaper.

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 children.

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: reptiles.

"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 Alex does.

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/

 

 

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