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Literacy Partners, Non-Profit Adult Literacy Program, Attracts Post50 Volunteers

Literacy Seniors

First Posted: 11/25/11 08:55 AM ET Updated: 11/25/11 03:23 PM ET

Many Post50s are following the path of reinvention, taking up encore careers, starting second acts and receiving standing ovations for seeking new fulfilling roles that give back. A notable number of such individuals are gathering at Literacy Partners, a New York based non-profit organization that has helped thousands of adult New Yorkers learn the basic reading, writing and math skills needed to succeed in day-to-day living.

According to Executive Director Susan McLean, Literacy Partners has 150 total volunteers, one-third of which are over age 50 -- 19 percent of which have volunteered with the organization for more than five years, despite the one-year commitment requirement. As the only nationally accredited adult literacy program, Literacy Partners boasts dedicated individuals coming together to form a melting pot of knowledge, mixing various experience from a vast number of industries.

One such example is 63-year-old Lynda Abdoo, who was once pulling 60-hour work weeks as a Senior Vice President at a fashion company before she found herself another victim of the recession: laid-off and unemployed. Swayed by Literacy Partners' solid foundation of almost 40 years, the door abruptly shut for Abdoo opened another, offering her a postion that was not only more fulfilling, but also more challenging:

"I was the Senior Vice President of a fashion company, and even with that level of responsibility, I don't think I ever did anything as difficult as teaching. There is no 'down time'...you have to be present every minute. But overall, I feel that the students make more of an impact on us as volunteers than we can ever hope to make on them. The ones that impact me the most are the students that have overwhelming struggles, but then they park those things at the door -- they are here to learn."

Abdoo is now coming out of retirement and taking the LAC certification course in teaching adult education, in order to work part-time. A veteran volunteer, Margaret Sheehan, 65, also speaks of the reciprocal opportunity to escape the "insular" office environment, which often leaves us focused on others of the same socio-economic and educational levels. Sheehan recommends volunteering for an eye-opening experience, advising, "It's the best thing someone can do for themselves, on so many levels. It improves the quality of life for the person who is donating their time, giving them a purpose."

Literacy Seniors
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that 150 of the organization's volunteers were over age 50.
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Filed by Erica Smith  |