If a key component of retirement involves relaxation, no one told Bettye Simpson.
Simpson arrives at the site of Knowledge is Power, a program she founded and runs, at 7:30 a.m. during the summer months and leaves at 5 p.m. on good days.
In between, she picks up and delivers children, teaches math, reading, some science and Bible study in the mornings, and then takes children to area museums, the public library or an outdoor activity in the afternoons.
Simpson wants the dozen or so 8- to 12-year-olds to learn the concepts she was taught decades ago that have served her well.
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"It is a long day, but it is needed," Simpson said. "What I'm trying to do is make sure every child graduates and goes to college or a trade school. These kids that we serve are at a vulnerable age. They need to be exposed to different things."
Simpson is one of 350 senior citizens in Fayette and Jessamine counties who have willingly added "reaching out" to their definition of retirement by joining the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and working to improve the lives of their neighbors.
RSVP offers seniors a variety of part-time, unpaid services throughout their communities, such as tutoring, teaching adult education and technology, and leading museum tours.
"They are really out there everywhere," said Charlie Lanter, who manages the volunteer programs at the Community Action Council, including RSVP. "All you have to be is 55 and older. There are no other restrictions."
Volunteers work at various non-profits in the area, particularly those focused on adult respite care, Lanter said. RSVP volunteers are many of the docents who guide us through area museums and at cultural heritage sites. KIP has about six volunteers but could use 10, he said. And several help prepare taxes.
"They are an extremely dedicated bunch," he said. "A lot of them will tell you it's their job even though they are not getting paid. They call their supervisor their boss."
RSVP gives the volunteers a lot of room to live their lives. They can work as much or as little as they need to, and there are plenty of programs willing to work around their schedules. Volunteers receive supplemental accident insurance and mileage reimbursement.
Some adult respite centers are for profit, but most sites where volunteers are placed are non-profits, Lanter said.
Potential volunteers are interviewed and then placed where both parties will benefit.
RSVP, part of the National Senior Service Corps along with Foster Grandparents Program and Senior Companions, is partly funded through the Corporation for National & Community Service, partly through donations and partly through the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government.
Simpson, 63, who worked as a social worker or day care manager for 30 years, said KIP exists because of the generosity of God; her church, Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church; and Drs. Linda Larkin and Michael Scott.
Larkin and Scott, who attend Mt. Calvary, donate space above their dental offices at 624 North Broadway for the program, pay the utilities and often donate snacks for the group.
Mt. Calvary donates the use of a van, and God — well, he plays the biggest role.
"I don't get anything but what God gives," she said. "I had to take credit for what is God's work."
In the beginning three years ago, Simpson worked the long days with her husband at her side. He died in October, which made the work harder. But she has no plans to stop. "Somebody has to do it," she said. "The kids are getting worse and worse."
With Mt. Calvary, she is working on another program that will include parents and guardians and will address parenting, job opportunities and training.
This year, she has recruited students from the University of Kentucky School of Music to give voice lessons; for the new Saturday sessions, dance and drama will be taught; and the students will plant a community garden at Mt. Calvary. Plus, the children will learn etiquette and how to set a table.
"I'm just trying to teach them what I learned in the '60s," she said. "Old school."
That is some retirement.