Nov. 1-7 is California Retired Teachers Week, when the California Retired Teachers Association (CalRTA) celebrates an annual statewide donation of nearly two million hours of unpaid volunteer service. And here in the Coachella Valley, members of just one chapter of CalRTA, Desert Roadrunner Division 43, have made substantial contributions to the community, not just through their volunteer service, but also through scholarships and teacher grants.
In the last reporting year, CalRTA Division 43 members donated 36,930 volunteer hours by ushering at theaters, tutoring in schools, working as museum docents and picking up litter on Interstate 10. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, they distributed food, sewed personal protective equipment for Eisenhower Medical Center and provided virtual COVID-19 health information to low-income workers.
During the last school year, CalRTA Division 43 gave $1,000 scholarships to seven seniors graduating from local high schools. Eligible applicants, those with educators in their family, got the necessary forms from their school counselor or the Division 43 website in January. Pandemic or not, the organization plans to award more scholarships in the current school year.
Since 2016, CalRTA Division 43 has awarded $100 grants to 95 active public school teachers in Desert Sands, Coachella Valley and Palo Verde school districts. Teachers need register only once for any grants offered during a single school year. They can register by sending their name, email address, school and position to firstname.lastname@example.org. Winners are selected at random on specified drawing dates. The only obligation for winners is to reveal how they intend to use the grant money to help their teaching.
One teacher used the funds to provide a “pollination station” for monarch butterflies at school. Another bought books and prizes. Still another used funds to purchase a laptop and monitor to better teach from home. The drawing dates and number of grants depend on the availability of funds, which are generated by fundraisers throughout the year. The state organization, CalRTA, provides opportunities to win additional grants. For the second time this year, the state will be awarding 40 grants. For information, teachers may go to calrta.org.
CalRTA was founded in 1929 to help rescue retired teachers from abject poverty. Throughout the years, this nonpartisan organization has continued to focus on issues affecting public educators who are active and retired. Because teachers never stop caring, volunteer community service is an integral part of members’ activities. CalRTA now has 37,000 members in 89 local divisions throughout the state.
CalRTA Desert Roadrunner Division 43, established in 1959, has 400 members. Membership is open to any educator, active or retired, and to any person who supports the purposes of CalRTA. Although most members of Division 43 live in the Coachella Valley, some reside in other parts of California and even in other states. Additional information is available at div43.calrta.org.
Helen Smith serves as communications chair on the California Retired Teachers Association, Desert Roadrunner Division 43 board. Her last article in The Desert Sun appeared in 2009.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Retired teachers give back to the Coachella Valley through scholarships and volunteerism