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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Column: Mentoring reaps rewards for students, volunteers

Autumn is now hinting at its return; you can smell fall in the early morning on these late August days. It’s also a reminder that school is on its way back onto the calendar in many family’s lives.

Now is the time for boomers, retired and otherwise, to consider a volunteer gig in the schools. Communities in Schools in Spokane County is sponsoring again this year its popular PrimeTime mentoring program.

Mentors are matched one-on-one with at-risk students in more than a dozen schools in Spokane and Cheney. Mentors are asked to commit to one hour a week with their students through June 2014.

The mentoring program is open to adults of all ages, but retirees are especially desired because of their flexibility and commitment. If interested, contact Sherry Barrett, executive director of Communities in Schools, at or call (509) 413-1436.

SPEAKING OF MENTORS: You might encourage your students to stay in school. It pays off. The U.S. Census released these statistics last week:

• $76,650 – mean earnings of full-time, year-round workers 18 and older with a master’s degree in 2011.

• $59,415 – mean for workers with a bachelor’s degree.

• $32,493 – mean for workers with a high school diploma (includes GED certificate).

• $21,454 – mean for workers with less than a ninth grade education.

REMEMBERING DECEASED CLASSMATES: Trudy Raymond of Spokane recently emailed her high school reunion story: “We just had our 50th reunion for the Shadle Park class of 1963. We had a memorial board with photos and names of our deceased classmates (there were 84). My husband read the names of the deceased, and then we played a recorded bagpipe (of) ‘Amazing Grace.’ We felt it was important to remember those classmates.”

ONE ADVANTAGE OF AGING: When you see headlines in magazines, newspapers and on the Internet warning about the latest scary things – You’ll outlive your savings! The killer bees are back! – you now understand that often the really scary stuff is something you never worried about.

ADVICE, PLEASE: I am soliciting advice on how to survive your first year of retirement for a future story on retirement. Keep it short (200 words or less) and email to or snail mail to Rebecca Nappi, The Spokesman-Review, 999 W. Riverside, 99201. Include your name, age, hometown and when you retired. Deadline: Aug. 23.

SOCIAL SECURITY CELEBRATES: If Social Security were a person, it would have celebrated 78 years of existence last week. On Aug. 14, 1935 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the act into law.

AARP Washington last week put out a press release in honor of the milestone – 832,000 Washingtonians receive an average monthly benefit of $1,300. AARP Idaho hasn’t issued its anniversary release yet, but last year, Spokesman-Review Idaho legislative writer Betsy Z. Russell reported that 1 in 6 Idahoans is collecting Social Security, with an average payment of $1,130 a month.

GODSPEED DR. VANDERWILDE: When boomers and seniors reminisce about the good old days of medicine, they often mention their childhood doctors. Our family went to Dr. Alex VanderWilde, who worked out of a historic building on Northwest Boulevard, had Norman Rockwell paintings on the walls and was way ahead of his time.

He believed in natural childbirth in the days when women were drugged to oblivion during childbirth. He was an early skeptic of the value of cholesterol drugs; some of his fears about the drugs seem to be coming true. He always knew, and gently conveyed, that many ailments had underlying emotional components.

He was born in 1926, and he spent some of his teen years in a Japanese civilian work camp on the Island of Java in the former Dutch East Indies. His father, a coffee, tea and rubber trader, was from Holland.

Dr. VanderWilde told me in a 2003 interview that he never changed clothes for a year in that camp, subsisted on one small meal a day and slept on a wood pallet, but he refused to grow bitter from the experience.

What he saw in the camp inspired him to be a doctor. In retirement, he and his wife grew trees on a tree farm. I wish I had videotaped the interview to show to medical students today. Dr. VanderWilde remains the gold standard.


“Emergency Preparedness” – learn about local hazards, short- and long- term preparedness, today, 6 p.m., Argonne Library, 4322 N. Argonne Road, Millwood, (509) 893-8260.

“Back to School Olympics” – live music and food in a community event where school supplies will be collected for children in need, Friday, 4 p.m. Transitional Living Center, 3128 N. Hemlock St., Spokane, (509) 328-6702.

For more activities and events, go to