Larry Larson has devoted his life to helping others. He spent his career as a social worker for the developmentally disabled in Lapeer and Flint. After he retired, he looked for opportunities to volunteer. “I wanted to be useful,” he says.
Since he began volunteering as a tutor for Oakland Literacy Council, he has worked almost exclusively with native-born Americans. Most of them slipped through the cracks of their schools without ever becoming literate. Some of them are angry at school policies that promote students despite their inability to do the schoolwork.
“Tutoring helps you to get to know something about the effects of racism and discrimination and the inadequacies of certain school districts, so you’re more informed about why some adults struggle with reading and writing,” he says. “You learn that some schools have a lot of money for students, and some have very little.”
As a former social worker, he knows adults who cannot understand street signs, write simple notes, or read instructions suffer a handicap. They are unemployable or relegated to low-wage jobs, he says.
Without Oakland Literacy Council to lift the literacy levels of these adults, they would be “stalled,” he says. The students he’s tutored have always expressed gratitude for the help they get, he adds.
Over the years, Larry has not only dedicated his personal time as a tutor for Oakland Literacy Council, but also his personal treasure. “One of my favorite charities is Oakland Literacy Council because it’s so important that people get a chance to read and write,” he says. When his brother died, he asked Larry to donate the funds to charity. Larry gave some of his brother’s inheritance to the Council, among other non-profit organizations.
“I could easily say I’ve donated my time and skills, so why should I donate my money too, but all three are important,” he says. “As a retiree, you need to volunteer your time, skills and money.”