OASIS volunteers to be honored for longtime work tutoring children

Sid Hastings

When the current OASIS volunteers with significant anniversaries are honored in May, they'll be representing a great many active older adults in the archdiocese who happily take time to help children in school.

The OASIS Intergenerational Tutoring Program, part of the OASIS national nonprofit organization for seniors, partners with school districts to match older adults with children who need help with language and reading skills.

"The Archdiocese of St. Louis has the largest OASIS program in the country," said Barbara Peach, archdiocesan OASIS coordinator. "We have about 350 volunteers in 45 Catholic schools, in at least six of the 11 counties in the archdiocese."

The OASIS program does not require a lot of time from individual volunteers, Peach said. "One hour once a week with one specific child, for the whole school year. And we have a training program."

There are 51 OASIS volunteers being recognized in a ceremony Wednesday, May 2, at the Cardinal Rigali Center in Shrewsbury. The longest-running volunteer being honored is Joanne Farley, who has been with OASIS for 20 years.

Joanne's kids

"I love the OASIS program," Joanne Farley said. "I enjoy children and I love to read. I think those are the only two requirements. That's all you need to be an OASIS volunteer."

A former remedial reading teacher, she stressed, "It doesn't take that to be an OASIS volunteer." After a career in teaching, she retired, but a year later signed up with OASIS.

Farley likes the program so much she volunteers at two different schools, Combs Elementary School in the Ferguson-Florissant School District, and the Academy at St. Rose Philippine Duchesne in Florissant. She's tutored at Combs for the entire 20 years she's been with OASIS -- currently working with two students, each for an hour a week -- and has been volunteering through the archdiocese for about 10 years, first at St. Dismas School, then at the Academy of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, a school for children with learning disabilities and attention deficits.

"I have worked with many children up through third grade. It's a wonderful program. I plan an experience with the child, have a lot of discussion with them, I read them a story every time and the child reads to me. Then I go."

Farley is a member of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Parish in Florissant (at the site of the old St. Dismas Parish, her original parish) She has four grown children and 12 grandchildren, "14 grandchildren" counting her grandchildren's spouses. Her husband, Charles Farley, passed away in December 2010.

"When I first volunteered, I told the OASIS people that my husband and I wanted to travel, and they said fine. And that's been wonderful too. When I go on a trip, I tell the children first. Then I send them postcards from each place I travel, then I bring souvenirs back to them, and we talk about it and write about it. It's worked out marvelously," Farley said.

"I think OASIS is a wonderful program and I encourage others to do it," Farley said.

Longtime volunteers

Also receiving OASIS awards for recognition of their long years of service are the following volunteers and their schools:

15 years: Sylvia Dunne, Our Lady of Providence School; Joe Mueller, St. Mark School; Marge Blatz, St. Norbert; Cookie Prindiville, Holy Child.

10 years: Leo Monihan, Holy Trinity School; Jackie Brown, Our Lady of Guadalupe; Carol Giblin, St. Ann; Vicki Jacoby, Patricia Poehling, St. Catherine Laboure; Fran Novotny, Jackie Schibig, St. Joan of Arc; Betty McNeive, Catherine McNeive, St. Mark; Joe Morris, St. Patrick; Gertrude Dub, Donald Niemeyer, St. Monica.

Five years: Katie Pero, Assumption School (O'Fallon); Donna Thayer, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta; Gaylene Engelbrecht, Cathedral; Catherine Lewis, Barbara Stork, Good Shepherd; Mary Mattingly, Marie Strayhorn, Our Lady Queen of Peace; Dave Hassler, Dot Hassler, Our Lady of Sorrows; Ann Wilder, Our Lady of Providence; Margaret Bell, Jeanine Pelikan, Seven Holy Founders; Bernard Berns, St. Ann; Carol Pingel, St. Catherine Laboure; Ava Diermann, Kitty Heberle, Barbara LaPlante, St. Ignatius; Juanita Feigenbaum, St. Joseph (Manchester); John McCleisch, St. Justin Martyr; Ruth Engel, Sarah Landro, Bob Wortman, Pat Wortman, St. Mark; Father Michael Donald, Sue Stiener, St. Monica; Marie Dobson, St. Norbert; Ruth Rothbacher, St. Paul (Fenton); Jim Lawless, Maureene Lawless, Earl Stepanek, St. Paul (St. Paul); Kathleen Gerber, Rosemary Phelan, Carol Ann Simon, St. Raphael the Archangel.

For information on becoming an OASIS volunteer, contact Barbara Peach at (314) 792-7332 or email bpeach@archstl.org.

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