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Senior School Volunteers: Top of Their Class - Ladue News: Retirement Lifestyle

Senior School Volunteers: Top of Their Class

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Posted: Thursday, October 10, 2013 12:00 pm | Updated: 10:02 am, Mon Oct 21, 2013.

Bill and Anne Tao

When Bill Tao came to America from China to study engineering and mechanics, he relied on a scholarship from Washington University for support.

Today, he and his wife, Anne, pay this generosity forward, sponsoring scholarships at Washington University, Saint Louis University, University of Missouri and the ScholarShop.

The Taos are now well into retirement, but haven’t given up giving.

Bill, 96, and Anne, 92, say they aren’t sure how many scholarships they’ve awarded over the years.

“It changes every year,” Bill says. “About four a year since the 1960’s, so that’s how many…? The number is not important. The important thing is that we want to help the people in need.”

As a member of the board of trustees for Washington University, Bill enjoys offering students advice, helping them make contacts and find jobs. And tudents who received scholarships from the Taos are now sponsoring scholarships of their own.

“We feel very happy because we were able to do such things,” Bill says. “But we don’t seek reward. We just want to help.”

 

Sylvia Barnard

Retired volunteer Sylvia Barnard says it best: “You’re never too old to continue giving.”

The Friendship Village Chesterfield resident says she has a special passion for working with children. Before retirement, Barnard taught drama and creative writing at area schools and universities, and during the summers, she taught at a North Carolina camp for girls so that her daughter could attend.

Since retiring, the 85-year-old has spent almost 15 years volunteering at elementary schools, doing one-on-one tutoring. She started with OASIS, a program that trains seniors to volunteer in schools. Now, Barnard volunteers at Claymont School in Chesterfield, helping students work on their reading, writing and storytelling skills.

Barnard remembers one little girl who was repeating the first grade. The student wasn’t very vocal or able to tell stories, until one day when Barnard brought in a tape recorder.

“It was like a miracle,” she says, recalling the girl’s five-minute story. Barnard then took the recording home and transcribed it verbatim. She worked with the girl’s teacher to ‘publish’ a copy of the book for its young author.

“She was tremendously proud of it, to have her book,” Barnard says. “This was a child who had failed; she was repeating the first grade. To have published a book that she had written was a tremendous accomplishment for her.”

Volunteer work for Barnard isn’t limited to elementary schools. She also participates in a program at Friendship Village, in which she reads aloud to blind residents. She says she also tries to visit the sick and bedridden, to give them reprieve from long, lonely days spent in the health wing.

“Other people have helped me, and I want to be able to help others,” Barnard says. “Because without that, there isn’t any point. I love to read, I love music, I like to go to the symphony. But If I just did the things that I enjoyed, life would be hollow. I have to feel that there is something special I can do.”

 

Bill and Jean Lange

One morning a week, Bill and Jean Lange walk from their home at Aberdeen Heights in Kirkwood to Robinson Elementary School. There, they work with children to develop their reading, writing and math skills.

This fall marks 10 years the Langes have participated in the OASIS program, volunteering at Kirkwood elementary schools. Every school year, they are each assigned a child to tutor and mentor.

Jean, 78, a retired pre-school teacher and parent-educator, works with the teacher to formulate lesson plans based on the individual child’s interests and needs.

“I enjoy the interactivity with the child and to watch that child grow during the school year and be successful in whatever it is he or she needs help with,” Jean says. “You’ve made a new friend and when they see you, joy spreads over their face.”

Bill, 77, worked in sales and marketing before retiring, and wasn’t sure at first if he would have what it takes to work with the children. He says working with the OASIS program has been very rewarding, calls his students “buddies.” Last year, he formed a special bond with the girl he tutored.

“I was there right before lunch, and she would say Will you walk me down to lunch? and she would take my hand and I would walk with her down to the cafeteria,” Bill recalls. “I suspect that maybe there was no male influence in her family at the time. So I was a substitute.”

Jean agrees, saying, “That brings tears to my eyes, when you talk about it. I think [the students] feel that they are important because they have someone—you have to just experience it.”

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