Local retired teachers hope to jump-start their organization


The Wood County Retired Teachers Association is hoping for new leadership to jump-start the once-thriving organization in the wake of the pandemic.

The group will hold a meeting April 10 at 10 a.m. at the Wood County Senior Center, 140 S. Grove St. The speaker at the meeting will be Robin Rayfield, executive director of the Ohio Retired Teachers Association, who will provide an update on the State Teachers Retirement System. Those having questions about the meeting should call Carole Wolfe, ORTA regional liaison, at 419-769-0774. WCRTA members, other retirees, and those interested in the WCRTA, and operations at the state level, are invited to attend.

“The purpose of the meeting is to get people together and continue this tradition of working together for the good of the organization,” said Charlene Avery, the WCRTA’s historian, in a recent interview.

According to materials provided by Avery, STRS was created in 1920 by the Ohio General Assembly, providing retirement benefits to teachers. Feeling the need to increase benefits in the 1940s, groups of retired teachers organized and formed the Ohio Retired Teachers Association in 1947. Twenty-one years later, in November of 1968, the WCRTA was formed with 39 charter members. The first president was Erwin Kreischer, with the first general meeting, held in April, 1969, at the Rudolph Community Center, with 106 members and guests in attendance.

The chief focus of the organization is pension benefits and health care coverage for retired teachers, but the group had also engaged in other functions. In previous years it held lunch meetings and special events, including an annual trip to a Toledo Mud Hens game, provided two scholarships every year for future educators, and donated to food pantries.

“We used to do things,” Avery said. “We had a scholarship, we gave books to the (Wood County District Public Library) in memory of retired teachers, members who had passed away, and we always had a nice Christmas dinner and entertainment. And that’s just all gone,” in the wake of COVID. During the group’s final meeting in 2019, between 30 and 50 retired teachers had attended. The WCRTA’s last members list in 2019 listed 210 lifetime members living in Wood County. The group’s most recent president, Don Bright, served at the age of 90 and died in 2020. A past president of the ORTA, it had been his second term as WCRTA president, beginning in 2015.

“COVID stopped it, and (Bright) passed away during that time, so there was no leadership particularly, but we were kind of trying to decide how to get it going again,” said Avery. There have been some meetings of the group’s remaining officers in the intervening years, as well as some meetings put together by Wolfe, the ORTA’s regional liaison.

“This (meeting) is kind of our big push, because if nobody’s interested… it will probably just be when the people from ORTA and (Wolfe) would put a meeting together. But as far as our chapter or our organization being active, we need a leader,” said Avery.

“A lot of the retired teachers here in Wood County do get together with people that have retired from their own school,” she said. “They do meet individually but without the big organization there’s nothing to put us all together.”

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