Sharing stories about adventures – and misadventures

For the Monitor
Published: 2/15/2019 4:39:37 PM

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute members braved the cold, snowy weather on Wednesday to enjoy a “Mug ‘n’ Roll.” Three members brought soup and chili, one brought home-baked bread and another brought rolls and all were lapped up with great enthusiasm by members gathered for the last social gathering before classes begin next week.

Veteran OLLI members, some part of the organization since its inception 15 years ago, greeted some of the 52 brand new members, regaling them with stories of OLLI adventures and a few misadventures as well.

The program was a discussion of the members’ volunteer experiences outside of OLLI. A generous group, members talked about their services to Shea Farm, Granite State Ambassadors, the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Agency, local online newspaper services, school libraries, community caregivers, Girl Scout Troop in the Women’s Prison, Concord Community Concert, Society of Decorative Painters, 4-H Parents, the Cold Weather Shelter, Pope Memorial SPCA’s therapy animals (taking kittens and bunnies to nursing homes!), the Tuftonboro Bicentennial Flotilla and one adventurous member’s church mission trip to Cuba. The stories were sometimes sad, often inspirational, occasionally funny and always fascinating.

Volunteerism is baked into the OLLI tradition. In fact, the 123 OLLIs across the United States have at least two things in common – a vibrant educational program for adults over age 50 and a dynamic volunteer program. The volunteer aspect of OLLI is a qualifying component of the grant process from the Osher Foundation which has funded the 123 OLLI start-ups over the years. Bernard Osher, founder of the OLLI program, recognized that many older adults, after they retire, seemed to lose their sense of purpose and identity. Meaningful volunteer work, however, has the capacity to restore that sense of self-worth which, along with maintaining an active brain, leads to healthy aging, the main goal of OLLIs.

OLLI at Granite State College is organized with a shared leadership model. A small paid staff and a volunteer governing body collaborate to run the organization of over 1200 members. While the staff is responsible for administration, infrastructure and coordination, volunteers are responsible for OLLI programming. Volunteer committees develop ideas for classes, secure presenters and arrange schedules. Presenters, all volunteers, research and design their courses, delivering them to registered members.

Volunteers organize and run social events and trips, They produce a monthly newsletter, member and presenter handbooks and informational or promotional materials. They govern each of the four sites which compose OLLI at Granite State College with a committee structure entirely staffed with volunteers. They develop strategic plans, training programs, evaluate the member experience and perform continuous quality improvement in coordination with staff.

OLLI at Granite State College begins its spring term on Feb. 18. With more than 230 courses across four learning sites including 70 in the Concord site, the work of the 500-plus volunteers is on display for all members to see and enjoy. Fifty brand new members who joined in Concord alone since Jan. 1 have certainly found something that will enrich their lives. Granite State College, which supplies classroom space, the paid staff and IT, financial and marketing expertise, is proud of this program providing noncredit courses targeted specifically to the over-50 population.


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