Local nonprofit for retired educators hoping to boost membership after turbulent year
IDAHO FALLS – Leaders of a local nonprofit say they’ve seen a decrease in membership over the last year and they’re trying to spread awareness of the group in hopes of giving it a jumpstart again.
Chris Blower, president of the Idaho Falls Retired Teachers, which is a local unit of the Retired Educators Association of Idaho, tells EastIdahoNews.com their membership has been dwindling over the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We did not have any meetings during COVID,” Blower says. “As a result, membership has dropped off. We also have a lot of teachers who have retired who are not informed about our association and we want to invite them to join us.”
The group is designed to be a club for retired teachers, administrators and other educators who were involved in facilitating classroom instruction for students at any level, whether it be K-12 or college. Monthly meetings are typically held, depending on where members live. Its main purpose is to give retired educators a chance to interact and socialize with one another and members of the community through various projects.
The Idaho Falls group meets monthly at Dixie’s Diner, where they have lunch and listen to a guest speaker.
“It’s a good way to meet new friends and renew old acquaintances,” says Blower. “We’ve had Bonneville County Prosecutor Danny Clark speak to us. We’ve had people come and talk about the history of Idaho Falls, little tidbits that you never knew about it. We’ve had people from the zoo come and talk and a lot of other interesting speakers.”
The group is an arm of the AARP and Blower says another purpose of the nonprofit is to keep members in the loop about retirement benefits through the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho. It also helps members stay informed about what’s happening in the state legislature with education.
“We are there to protect the retirements of teachers. Some of the state legislators would like to do away with PERSI and we are actively involved to see that retirement remains intact for all people (on the state and local level who are enrolled in the program),” Blower explains.
Blower says the Idaho Falls unit is one of the smallest in the state with about 25 members.
“I retired from Bonneville School District 93 and since then, some of the other teachers that have retired have heard about it and we’ve got more people from District 93 but we haven’t gotten anyone from Idaho Falls School District 91. We’d like to spread it out and have more people come in from other districts.”
There about 70 members in the Pocatello unit, according to Stan Cope, President of the state organization.
There are nine units throughout the state, stretching from Coeur d’Alene and Boise to Twin Falls and eastern Idaho. Every state has a similar organization, which is part of the National Retired Teachers Association.
Cope says there are more than 500 members throughout the state.
“The state organization helps the local units continue on with whatever they’re doing,” Cope says. “No one in our units met face-to-face (last year) … and so nothing has happened and when people aren’t meeting monthly, they have a tendency to drop out. We want to jumpstart it and get it back up and going.”
Group members have access to a variety of insurance benefits through Association Member Benefits Advisors, Cope says, which is one incentive to join. He’s also encouraging educators to join for the service they can provide to the community.
“We deal with the school districts and give a book to each library every year. We volunteer in the community, like ringing the bell for the Salvation Army at Christmastime. We donate money to the food bank. There’s a host of things that we do (and we want you to be part of it),” he says.
If you’re a retired educator living in Idaho Falls, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the group and when they meet. You can also visit the Facebook page. The Southeast Idaho Retired Educators Association website has more information about the Pocatello unit.