Senior Power… “Always my best day of the week.” Part 2.

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Sunday October 30, 2011 - 01:04:00 PM

In order to run effectively, public and independent schools worldwide rely heavily on donations and on parents, grandparents and community members’ volunteering. Because most – not all -- old people are women, I was particularly interested in interviewing a male senior citizen who is a school volunteer. So I went to

BPEF School Volunteers director Jill Coffey responded to my solicitation of a senior interviewee. “...We have many amazing volunteers, so if you need to connect with others--from any background or involved with any school program--please contact me. We love to honor volunteers' time and commitment with an opportunity to share their experiences in a public format. It's a great way to recognize volunteers while also recruiting new ones! Thank you for that opportunity.”

Shortly, I heard from school volunteer, Richard “Dick” Colton: “Jill Coffey gave me your contact info and said you’re looking for a BSV volunteer to interview -- preferably a senior male. Well, that's me for sure, 68, though I am not yet quite willing to settle for the descriptor “elder.” Oops, my bad. “I'm just starting my 7th year volunteering in a 4th grade class at Rosa Parks School. I spend the whole day on Wednesdays. Always my best day of the week.” 

Richard “Dick” Colton’s B.A. degree is from Wesleyan University, located in Middletown, a private secular liberal arts college founded in 1831, where his interdisciplinary major focused on the social sciences, economics, etc. . . . He completed most of the PhD work in history at UCB before changing course and going into the construction business. The Colton family lives in Berkeley and has three children and two grandchildren. 

Dick describes himself as a semi-retired building contractor, in which for years he did principally remodeling and residential construction. Among his present activities he has a small farm in Mendocino country where he grows olives for oil and grapes for winemaking. His other community volunteer activities have included driving for Meals on Wheels and doing home inspections for Rebuilding Together- Christmas in April, as well as working for his children’s sports teams in the Berkeley schools. He is currently on the BPEF board. The Berkeley Public Education Foundation & BPEF School Volunteers work to build community support of the schools.  

First, an introduction to Rosa Parks Elementary School, an Environmental Science Magnet school in Berkeley, California and where Dick volunteers each week. There are several Rosa Parks Elementary Schools in the United States. Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (1913–2005) was an African-American civil rights activist. On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, this forty-two year old seamstress refused to obey a bus driver’s order that she give up her seat to a white passenger. Her civil disobedience had the effect of sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Although honored in later years, Parks suffered for her action, losing her job in a local department store.  

Every Wednesday Dick bikes from his home in north Berkeley 94707 to Rosa Parks Elementary School in southwest Berkeley 94720. He likes to arrive early and help out with his kids in the playground. The bell rings at 8:57 A. M., and they line up. The school pledge is a quote from Rosa Parks: “To this day I believe we are here on this planet earth to live, grow up, and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.” Two students take turns bringing the boxes that contain breakfast to their classroom. Kate Kirkhuff was Dick’s classroom teacher for six years until her reassignment as the school literacy specialist. Torina Carter is his current teacher. There are twenty-seven students in their fourth grade class. 

Although students have their own individual desks, the day begins with their gathering around Dick, seated on his special stool on the rug, reading stories and poetry from his own books. Contemporary classics like Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Frost … Memorable reading-listening experiences like these will be indelible in the lives of many fourth-grade age children.  

For the child who comes from a home where reading is an accepted and satisfying occupation, Dick becomes another member of the fellowship of literature. Reading with a child in the home also has a lifelong benefit-- Dick recently realized that one of his poetry books bears the bookplate of a young woman – his mother. His role in this classroom is similar to that of the parent — sharing and appreciating. But for the children whose lives are TV, the teacher’s role is difficult. Ways of using books and poetry to make an impact and a source of delight and satisfaction must be devised.  

During the remainder of the school day, and while their teacher focuses on teaching the elements of the fourth grade curriculum, Dick does a hundred small tasks in the classroom and assists individual students whom he judges need extra help. Based on his awareness of problems, he may identify students for one-on-one or two or three instruction. Reading and math are basics. Some students have not tested “up” to their potential. He tests them. He tells the students that the four favorite words he most likes to hear are “Will you help me?”  

There may be class visits to the West branch of the Berkeley Public Library and weekly classroom visits by specialist cooking and science instructors. Rosa Parks Elementary School has many volunteers. Dick didn’t choose his school – it was assigned to him. Clearly, he regards it as mutual good fortune. Mid-morning there’s a fifteen-minute recess. Dick joins his class in the cafeteria for lunch from 12:30-1:10 P.M. Dismissal is at 3:10 except Wednesday early dismissal at 2:20. Every child receives a “Wednesday’s envelope” with notices for her/his parents. Homework goes into the backpack too. 

After school, Dick Colton bikes to a local café to enjoy a cuppa or a caffe while correcting some of his students’ math homework. Wednesday – always his best day. 

Interested in volunteering in the Berkeley schools? As Dick’s experience shows, working with these young students can be some of the most fulfilling, rewarding work you can imagine. There is still a strong need for more volunteers, with more than sixty teacher requests for volunteers still unfilled, and numerous other opportunities to help with after school programs, writing programs, etc. For information, contact Jill Coffey, Berkeley Public Education Foundation’s director of volunteering, at 510-644-8833, or by e-mail to The Fall 2011 Orientation Schedule is at . The final 2011 orientation will take place on Monday, December 12 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. 


MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Call to confirm, date, time and place. Readers are welcome to share news of events that may interest boomers, seniors and elders. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events preferred. 

Thursday, Oct. 27. 12:30 P.M. Celebrating a birthday in October? Cake, music, balloons, and good cheer. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. . 510-747-7506. 

Thursday, Oct. 27 1- 3 P.M. Fall Dance Halloween Stomp. Come in costume, be eligible for “best costume award,” door prizes, refreshments. Volunteers free; others, $2.00 per person. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7506. 

Thursday, Oct. 27 1:30 P.M. Music Appreciation with William Sturm, Volunteer Instructor. Piano recital and discussion on “The Sceptered Isle: Music of England”. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7506. 

Thursday, Oct. 27. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library. Berkeley Public Library West branch. 1125 University. 510-981-6270.  

Saturday, Oct. 29. 12:15 P.M. Halloween Bingo Bash. Patrons will receive a free Halloween dauber (ink marker) compliments of Center Advisory Board and Bingo Committee. Doors open at 10:00 A.M., with the first game at 12:15 P.M. 18 years of age+ are welcome. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av. 510-747-7506. 



Tuesday, Nov. 1. 12 Noon – 2 P.M. League of Women Voters. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720 x 16. The League of Women Voters invites you to join them. 

Tuesday, Nov. 1. 6 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. Discussion: School violence-- myths and realities. 510-981-6100. 

Wednesday(s), Nov. 2 and 9. 9 A.M. – 1 P.M. AARP Driver Safety Program. Preregistration required. $12. for AARP members, $14. for others. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. Note: FREE for ALL Veterans in November.  

Wednesday, Nov. 2. 12 Noon. Playreaders. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6100. Also Nov. 9, 16, 23, and 30. 

Wednesday, Nov. 2. 12:15-1 P.M. Noon Concert Series. UC,B Hertz Concert Hall. Free. University baroque Ensemble. Davitt Moroney, director. Music from Bach and Telemann. 510-642-4864. 

Wednesday, Nov. 2. 1 P.M. Mastick Book Club members review One Day by David Nicholls. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506, -7510. Free.  

Wednesday, Nov. 2. 1-2 P.M. Jewelry Making for Adults, with Yu Lan. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720 x 17.  

Wednesday, Nov. 2. 6-8 P.M. Lawyer in the Library. Free. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-0660. 

Wednesday, Nov. 2. 7 P.M. Democracy For America Meetup. Pizza 6:30 P.M. Presentation at 7 P.M. Rockridge Library, 5433 College Ave., Oakland. Contact Nancy M. Friedman at

Thursday, Nov. 3. 10 A.M. – 12 Noon. Literacy Reading Club. Practice English conversation. Albany Library, 1257 Marin Av. 510-745-1480. Also Nov. 10, 17. 

Thursday, November 3. 1:30 P.M. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720. SOCIAL SECURITY & MEDICARE. Free workshop. Speaker Mariaelena Lemus from the Social Security Administration. For older adults, family members, service providers. Reservations not required. Continuing into December, program will be presented throughout the Alameda County Library system; for a list of dates and locations, check the Alameda County Library system website. Older Adult Services at 510-745-1491. 

Thursday, November 3. 6 P.M. Lawyers in the Library at South Branch, Berkeley Public Library, 1901 Russell. 510-981-6260. Also, Nov. 10 and 30.  

Friday, Nov. 4. 6 P.M. Legal Assistance for Seniors’ 35th Anniversary Gala. Oakland Marriott City Center Ballroom, 1001 Broadway. 510-832-3040.  

Saturday, Nov. 5. Book Into Film: The Last Station. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6236 for required registration. 

Sunday, Nov. 6. 2 P.M. Performers’ showcase. At Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Participants from the weekly Playreaders program present scenes from classic and contemporary plays. 510-981-6241. 

Sunday, Nov. 6. 3-5 P.M. Cuban Music & Dance, refreshments. At Redwood Gardens, 2951 Derby Street, Berkeley. Benefit Performance for the Berkeley-Palma Soriano Cuban Sister-City Association. To support December solidarity brigade delegation to Cuba. Street parking. AC #49 (Counterclockwise) stops in front. Sliding scale donation $10-25.00, no one turned away for lack of funds. Contact: Dana Merryday 510-464-4615. 

Monday, Nov. 7. 9:30 – 11:30 A.M. Roger Baer, Volunteer Instructor, returns to teach his American Backgrounds 7-weeks course. Free. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

Wednesday, Nov. 9. 6:30-8 P.M. Drop-in poetry writing workshop. Free. Albany Library. 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-0660. 

Thursday, Nov. 10. 10 – 11:30 A.M. Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506  

Thursday, Nov. 10. 10:30 A.M. New Member Orientation & YOU! Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. Complimentary lunch provided by Bay Area Community Services (BACS). Registration required. 510-747-7506.  

Saturday, Nov. 12. 12 Noon. Beef Bowl Anime Club meeting for adults. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720 x 16. 

Monday, Nov. 14, 11:30 A.M. & 12 Noon. J-Sei Center, 110 Carleton St., Berkeley. Lecture “Do You Have the Right Insurance?” Speaker: Darrell Doi-CLTC Financial Advisor. To place a reservation for the lecture and/or lunch, call 510-883-1106. 

Monday, Nov. 14. 12:30 P.M. – 1:30P.M. Brown Bag Lunch Speaker’s Forum: Bob Lewis, Birds of the Bay Trail cosponsored by Albany YMCAnd Albany library at 1257 Marin Av. 510-526-3720 x 16. 

Monday, Nov. 14. 7 P.M. The Greek Isles-- History and Travel. Laura Bushman will talk about and present a slide show depicting the white washed villages overlooking the Aegean Sea. She will also address, briefly, the current economic condition in Greece.  

Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Tuesday, Nov. 15 is Annual National Memory Screening Day. http:///

Tuesday, Nov. 15. 1 P.M. Falls Prevention Discussion Group. Senior Injury Prevention Project. Participants will receive a Falls Prevention Manual and other useful, easy to read information. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

Tuesday, Nov. 15. 7 P.M. Author Showcase. Annette Fuentes, investigative reporter and author of Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse, is an op ed contributor to USA Today. El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Avenue. 510-526-7512. 

Wednesday, Nov. 16. 11 A.M. Outreach Specialist Colleen Fawley (510-981-6160) will visit J-Sei Senior Center, 1710 Carleton Way, Berkeley, to answer questions and take requests for books and magazines available from the Berkeley Public Library in Japanese and English. 510-883-1106. 

Wednesday, Nov. 16. 7 – 8 P.M. Adult Evening Book Group. Facilitated discussion . Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av., 510-526-3720.  

Thursday, Nov 17. 10 A.M. – 12 Noon. Free dental consultation with Dr. Alfred Chongwill. By appointment only. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

Thursday, Nov. 17. 12:30 P.M. Birthday Celebration. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

Thursday, Nov. 17. 1:30 P.M. Volunteer Instructor William Sturm presents “Musical Grab-Bag” medley of pieces by composers discussed in the Music Appreciation Class for 2011. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506 

Saturday, Nov. 19. 10 A.M. – 4 P.M. Friends of the Albany Library Book Sale, 1247 Marin Av. Please do not bring donations the week prior to the sale. 510-526-3720 x 16. Also Sunday, Nov. 20 11 A.M. – 4 P.M. 

Saturday, Nov. 19. 11 A.M. Landlord/Tenant Counseling. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. 510-981-6241. 


Wednesday, Nov. 23. 1:30-2:30 P.M. Great Books Discussion Group: John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. 510-526-3720.  

Monday, Nov. 28. 2 – 3:30 P.M. “Vigee-LeBrun:Woman Artist in an Age of Revolution” presentation by Brigit Urmson. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Av., Alameda. 510-747-7506.