Seniors Instructors Bite The Bullet

End Of Hcc Classes To Hit 35 Teaching Jobs

November 03, 1991|By Samuel Goldreich | Samuel Goldreich,Staff writer

Retirement doesn't come easily to Francis Grimm.

First diabetes forced him to leave his job running the Baltimore police crime photography lab in 1968.

Then an on-the-job spinal injury knocked him out of his maintenance position at a Pennsylvania campground in 1975.

While dependent on crutches or a wheelchair for mobility, Grimm, 73, has found work teaching woodworking at the county's Bel Air Senior Center.

But thelatest round of state budget cuts could finally make retirement stick next month, when Harford Community College shuts down its off-campus senior education program. The college says it will save more than $100,000 by closing the program in its effort to absorb state budget cuts.

Several of HCC's part-time teachers for seniors said they don't try to support themselves on the 17 1/2 hours a week they are limited to working. Many of them splice together a living with contracts at other schools or area government programs.

But losing the jobs,which pay between $7.70 and $12.50 per hour, means a sudden change in plans and lifestyles for some of the 35 teachers.

"This is a help to me since I'm handicapped," said Grimm, who has taught at the center for 10 years. "It keeps me from sitting at home and watching the boob tube."

Ruth, his wife of 50 years, will also lose her job as a a part-time arts and crafts instructor at the senior center.

"This doesn't mean the difference between my eating and starving," Grimmsaid. "But right now, we can go out to eat once in a while or take ashort trip. We're rally going to have to watch our pennies from now on."

None of HCC's seniors teachers receives insurance or health benefits.

With Social Security and Medicare, the couple won't become indigent.

Still, Grimm said he will miss teaching three times a week.

"Let's face it," he said, "after you become a senior citizen, you don't have many years left."

For crafts instructor Carole Doetsch, losing her job could mean the difference in where her daughter, Jennifer, studies violin when she graduates from Fallston Senior High School next year.

"We think she deserves a college education but you can't depend on scholarships," she said. "I'm trying to cover all the bases."

Doetsch is thankful that her husband Pearre's marketing job with CSX includes family health and insurance benefits.

"If he didn't have that job, I wouldn't be able to do this," she said."I almost think of it as community service."

She will continue teaching art to children twice a week through a second HCC contract.

But Doetsch said she will lose something irreplaceable after more than seven years at the senior center.

"This has become part of my life," she said. "This is what I do on Wednesdays, and these ladies have become my friends."

Like Doetsch, exercise instructor Barbara Matts has been able to choose her work because her husband supports their family.

"I don't need the job to put food on the table," she said.

If money gets really tight, Matts said, she can always take out a second mortgage to keep her son in college.

But Matts said the timing of her impending job loss won't hit her as hard as others.

After six years at the center, she completed training last month that will make her eligible to teach aerobic dance at health clubs.

"I'm gladder than ever that I studied to take the exam," she said.

But watching her senior students do their sit-and-stretch exercises,Senior Center director Barbara Greger said it's easy to see the difference Matts makes to their lives.

"It leaves a sudden hole because the (cuts) came as such a surprise," she said.

It's the sort of hole that ceramics instructor Nancy Fedoruk said the state and countycannot afford to leave unfilled.

"It's our seniors who need help the most. They have no place else," she said. "There's always money for school and money for everything else. Let them find money for seniors."

Ed Chachich, one of Grimm's students, summed up the feelingsof many at the senior center when he said that cutting teachers' jobs is a waste of human talent.

The wood shop has become a social center for its 17 students, both men and women, who have chipped in to donate expensive machine saws to the center.

"Just think of the expertise in this place. If I don't know how to do something, somebody here can show me," he said. "If they want to show some appreciation for senior citizens, this place doesn't cost that much to keep open."

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