Retired members gather to gear up for campaigns

Kathleen Roberts and Nancy Meyer, Retired Committee co-chairs, welcomed 135 members to their fifth annual Gathering, held October 12 in Westboro. They introduced a series of speakers that would energize the audience on two important campaigns: the Nov. 7 governor's race and the fight to preserve retirees' standard of living by increasing the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA).

Jack Flannagan, MTA's lobbyist specializing in employee benefits, addressed the retirees about MTA's plans to increase substantially the pension base on which COLAs are calculated.  He pointed out that the COLA base has increased by only $6,000 in the last 35 years -- from $6,000 in 1972 to $12,000 today.  Bills will be filed in January for consideration by the 2007-2008 legislative session.

Gathering organizers had set aside a small space by the registration tables to collect school supplies for PreK-3 classrooms in beleaguered Springfield. The pile was soon spilling over with books, rulers and classroom decorations.

"I was overwhelmed by the response," said Nancy Meyer, MTA Retired Committee co-chair. "People kept walking in saying, ‘This is for Springfield!' It touched my heart as a retired teacher from Springfield."

"We got pencils, stickers, colored paper, markers -- things that will be useful in Springfield that teachers would otherwise have bought for themselves," Meyer said. The donated supplies filled her station wagon, with the second seat folded down. "It took me three trips with a wheeled truck to get it all into the Springfield Education Association offices."

Nutritionist Denise Forsman of Health Promotion Affiliates brought in a harvest basket full of produce to illustrate her popular session  on "power eating." In another room, members learned the secrets of  power lobbying, specifically to increase the COLA, from Jo Ann Fitzgerald, MTA's retired member services specialist, and her fellow MTA-lobbyist, Catherine Fitchner.

MTA retired members served as presenters for several of the day's activities. Susan Cook Thanas, a retired member from Duxbury, shared her photos and experiences in a workshop, Traveling and Teaching In China. Leslie A. Miller, a retired Framingham art teacher, led a session on making and binding homemade books and journals.

Other workshop sessions included Elder Law, with Atty. Deborah K. Blum-Shore; Retiree Health Insurance Issues, with MTA General Counsel Ann Clarke; Recertification, with Ralph Devlin, MTA's Center for Educational Quality and Professional Development; Winter's Coming: Are you ready for it? with gardening expert Paul Rogers; Five Wishes, with Jo Ann Fitzgerald; Financial Planning for Retirees, with Eric Rosen, MetLife; and Reverse Mortgages with Paul Gershkowitz, Greenpark Mortgage.

Other members of the Retired Members Committee are Barbara Currie, Reading; Laurie Furkey, Westfield; Mary Gilmore, South Yarmouth; Stephen Gorrie, Randolph; Nancy Green, Wakefield; Mary Harrington, Lexington; Margaret Kane, Wilmington; Joan McGourty, Worcester; Paul McLaughlin, Pelham, N.H.; Gerard Ruane, Malden; and Louise Russell, Shrewsbury.