As I See It
by ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO
Most employees want to retire even before their full retirement age, so they can spend time with their families and enjoy life to the fullest to compensate their long years of working for various institutions. My brother Orlando retired from teaching at the age of 62, i.e. optional retirement. My friend and colleague Mr. McFarren retired at the age of 66, his full retirement age. But… there are seniors, who upon reaching the age of retirement, still want to work and serve the community… serve the students, even beyond the age of 80.
These are grandparents and seniors who belong to the Seniors Council Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion Program in the counties of Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, Monterey, Watsonville, and San Benito.
The Foster Grandparent Volunteers who, instead of retiring, spending their time at home, going to vacation places, and enjoying their moments with their families, are still working with the youth as mentors and serving their communities as volunteers in head-start, pre-schools, elementary, high school and elderly sites.
So, we have grandpas/grandmas in the classrooms! FilAm Grandma Dolores Misa and FilAm Grandpa Avelino Ocampo, 76, are part of this institution. Grandma Dolores is assigned to assist English teacher Annie Zacharia while Grandpa Avelino is helping Math teacher Denis Marks. They are assigned to San Jose Job Corps Center (SJJC) classrooms helping the regular teachers engage their students in completing their assignments and assisting them in earning their high school and/or GED. They work with the students one-on-one and sometimes in groups with personal touch. They connect with the students as their mentors and models that sometimes they consider them as their grandma/grandpa – buddies.
Grandma Dolores said, “I love helping the students and this is one way of giving back to the community. If I can help, in my modest way, why not?” She used to be an employee of the Commission on Audit (COA) in the Philippines.
For his part, Grandpa Avelino, even at an old age of 76 said, “I love helping the students despite my age… I find satisfaction whenever I see a student benefit from what I do, even in a very little way”. Grandpa Avelino was a retired employee of Republic Glass Corporation in Bulacan, Philippines, before migrating to the US.
Grandma Sheila Lawhon is the third foster volunteer assigned to San Jose Job Corps Center. They all deserve the best accolade for services rendered beyond retirement age.
Lydia Ramirez, Program Manager, Santa Clara County Seniors Council Foster Grandparent Program and Director Bob Campbell are planning the next volunteer recognition event “… to recognize the contributions our foster grandparent and senior companion volunteers are making to their communities they are assigned”. Each coordinator is planning an event for their service area – Lydia Ramirez for Santa Clara volunteers, Chris Greenwood for Santa Cruz volunteers, and Cristina Banuelos for Monterey and San Benito volunteers.
Ramirez said each volunteer, just like what they did last year, will walk up to the front of the room to receive certificates and mementos. They will receive certificates of appreciation to be given by Director Campbell. They will likewise receive gift bags and program pins, and, of course, free lunch during the recognition day!
According to Ramirez, the Seniors Council – Foster Grandparent Program, which oversees the volunteers, is a proud recipient of the 2013 Oak Grove School District Community Involvement Vision Award and the 2012 Volunteer of the Year Award from SCCOE, Santa Clara County Office of Education.
Speaking of volunteerism, I would also like to commend community volunteers who called themselves convenors led by Evangeline Sangalang, who put together the Bayanihan Fil-Am 2017 Festival held in Eastridge Mall, San Jose, California last Saturday, June 10, 2017 to celebrate Philippine Independence Day.
Visitors during the Bayanihan Fiesta were Deputy Consul General Jaime Ascalon, District 8 Councilmember Evelyn Arenas, and District 27 Councilmember Ash Kalra, both from the San Jose City Council.
Service to the community is a rare commodity. Many communities, government and non-government entities and profit and non-profit organizations, are having a hard time recruiting volunteers to carry out their goals. This was true in the past and still true today, especially with us Filipino-Americans who are characterized by our crab mentality even at a time of need and at a time of unity.
But, it is interesting to note that even with the hard times, there are some Filipino-American organizations I know from northern and southern California, other than the convenor group of Sangalang, that standout with overflowing volunteers and members, who are ready to serve and have been serving their respective organizations: the Pangasinan Brotherhood – USA, The Global Urdanetanians (TGU), The Original Urdanetanians (TOU); the Filipino American Chamber of Commerce in Silicon Valley (FACSV); the Historic Filipinotown Neighborhood Council (HFNC); and the Divine Word College of Urdaneta Alumni Association (DWCUAA).
TGU prides itself to have 13 scholars who are poor but deserving students, now in their freshmen to senior years in college. TGU president Yvonne San Juan-Sera said, “… we are set to interview the next set of scholars who passed the initial selection process initiated by their high school principals with recommendations from their barangay captains”. TGU-Urdaneta implements the scholarship program in the area with partnership with local leaders and the local Department of Education.
As volunteers, they spend their time, treasure, and talent (the proverbial 3 Ts) in serving the community and the organization they serve.
Kudos to all of you… volunteers! (For feedbacks, comments… please email the author @ firstname.lastname@example.org).