Seward County Retired School Personnel members prepare valentines at the Liberal Senior Center for Meals on Wheels clients last month. The project is just one of many SCRSP performs throughout the year for the community. Courtesy photo
By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus founded NRTA: AARP’s Educator Community (then known as the National Retired Teacher’s Association) in 1947 to address the economic challenges and health insurance needs of educators in retirement.
The benefits she was able to provide retired teachers became so popular that non-educators sought the same member benefits. In 1958, Dr. Andrus reached out to a broader audience by founding the American Association of Retired Persons. NRTA and AARP shared many goals and collaborated in the development of countless programs and advocacy initiatives.
In 1982, the NRTA would merge with AARP with the former becoming a division of the latter, and in 1965, Seward County became a member of NRTA.
N.B. Mahuron and 11 fellow retired teachers composed what is now known as the Seward County Retired School Personnel group. There are now 41 members of the group, and in its nearly half century of existence, the organization has, on a monthly basis, given back to the people whom they have served for in local education facilities.
SCRSP members turned in more than 7,500 hours of service to the state in 2012 alone, and some of the projects over the years include:
• Providing school supplies for Garfield Elementary;
• Coloring supplies and books for Liberal Good Samaritan Center;
• Donations to the Liberal Senior Center and Liberal Fire Department; and
• Meals on Wheels favors, continually from February 2005.
The group pays for the projects from its own funding.
“They usually fund us money from the treasurer,” said member Wilma Jean Johnson. “A lot of it, we do with computers, so it’s no cost technically. We’ll buy the paper or whatever we use to print it off on just because it’s fun.”
Johnson said SCRSP also has other projects they provide for the community.
“We’ve done puzzles,” she said. “We’ve done word finds, trivia. We’ve bought little flags for Fourth of July.”
Vice president Lila Thayer said most of what the group does can be done inexpensively.
“A lot of the things we could find fairly reasonably priced,” she said. “We’ve done it for eight years.”
Thayer, who retired in 1999, said much of the money used is collected from dues from members.
“A little bit stays local, and the rest of it goes to state,” she said.
Thayer said the community appreciates all of the projects.
“They just keep telling us to do it,” she said.
The SCRSP group has a new concept for 2013.
“I’m really excited that this year, we’re going to do a scholarship,” Thayer said.
That scholarship is for students at Seward County Community College who are planning a career in education.
Johnson, who retired in 1995, and Thayer both worked as elementary teachers, and this, they said, makes it easier for them to come up with ideas for projects.
Thayer said SCRSP members try to come up with a new idea for each month, but some months are limited on concepts. February is one of those months, and the vice president said valentines are naturally the idea of choice.
In 2005, the group began giving valentines to clients of the Liberal Senior Center’s Meals on Wheels program.
Johnson said SCRSP members got the idea from senior center director Susan Peters, who was trying to do something to brighten the clients’ day.
“She asked us what we thought we could do as a group,” Johnson said. “It was February, and I said, ‘I just cleaned out a closet, and I got a great big box of valentines. We can send valentines.’ They all came to my house, and we fixed valentines. We fixed valentines for all of them, and it just kind of evolved from that.”
Johnson said when the valentines project started, gifts were made for 35 people, and the venture has now grown to 63 people.
“Some people don’t even get a birthday card or a Christmas card,” she said. “It’s just some little something we can do each month to kind of help them know that someone’s still thinking about them.”
Thayer said slowly but surely, the SCRSP group continues to grow in members.
“We usually pick up a couple each year,” she said. “It does not grow quickly, but the first two years that you’re retired, you’re still trying to say, ‘No’ to a lot of things. It takes two or three years before they’re really wanting to do something.”
Thayer said it is not just teachers who can become involved with the group.
“We have vo-tech,” she said. “Even janitors can get involved. Anyone that is involved with school.”
Johnson said SCRSP will have a friendship meal on March 14 at the Liberal Senior Center, and those interested can call the center to request to join the group for lunch.
Thayer summed up the reason the group does what it does for the community.
“To let people know that even though we’re retired, we can still be a part of education and helping students or elderly,” she said. “We’re not just sitting back enjoying fishing or reading books.”