The day Russ Marineau retired from his job of 32 years at IBM, he had a knock on his door.
An offer was made that he could hardly refuse, when he was asked to volunteer in schools, mentoring students.
Mary Ann Bobobsky, who was the director of community relations for the district, waited until Marineau was retired and told him, “We have a deal for you,” he said.
He signed on to volunteer with HURRAH (Happy Upbeat Recycled Retirees Actively Helping) and became one of the organization’s biggest supporters and cheerleaders.
As he prepared to retire, Marineau said he learned that a great way to stay involved was to volunteer, because not only would he be helping out in the community, he would also be creating a wider social network.
“It’s been very good,” he said of volunteering. “I spent most of my time commuting and there wasn’t much time to get involved or volunteer. Now, I’m paying back. … I look at it as life is divided into three spots: school days, career days and there should be more school days rather than retirement.”
He began volunteering his time at , where his five children previously attended. He started out mentoring students during study halls as a parent might do, he said.
One of the boys he mentored seemed bright, but wasn’t doing well, he said. Over time, he learned the boy did poorly on purpose to get attention from his father who would come to see him when he wasn’t getting good grades. The father was alerted and things changed, he said.
Since 1991, Marineau, 78, has volunteered with HURRAH. The organization now stands for Happy Upbeat Retirees and Other Residents Actively Helping. His role has also changed as needed.
He has volunteered as a mentor, as a teacher’s assistant and now he volunteers as a homework assistant helping students with special education needs, Marineau said. He is also the organization’s chairperson.
The organization’s main volunteer effort is with reading programs in the elementary schools, he said. Volunteers go in and read to the students, or sometimes the adult switches off reading to the student and the student reads to the volunteer.
At the junior high school level volunteers participate in mentoring and providing homework assistance, he said.
“Teachers have an idea of who needs intervention and we have a volunteer help,” he said.
The volunteer program also bridges the gap between generations, Marineau said.
A class started at allows the students to teach the volunteers computer skills, he said.
“When we started the program the kids weren’t sure what they could talk about [with the volunteers] but that didn’t last,” he said. Now, students look forward to participating in the class.
The HURRAH program is recognized as one of the best intergenerational programs in the state, he said.
He splits his time between volunteering two times a week in the schools and managing the program, he said. Marineau also works to rally volunteers to the cause. He said the organization is looking for other residents who would like to volunteer, including those that aren’t retired.
“In my case I knew very few people in Naperville because I was commuting. Now, I have a long list of acquaintances,” he said. “… Personally it has been a big help and kept me healthier.”
HURRAH volunteers range from stay-at-home mothers to business professionals and there are roughly 200 who participate at some point throughout the year, he said.
“HURRAH volunteers are not paid, not because they are worthless," he said. "But because they are priceless.”