Everyday Heroes: AFT Retirees finalist
Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, Local 8037R
Carol Keiser spent 28 years in the classroom, teaching special education and elementary education. When she retired in 1999, she wanted to remain involved in education so she mentored new teachers. And since she had always been involved in the work of the union before her retirement, she turned her attention to her local retiree chapter and was quickly appointed vice president. When Keiser first joined her chapter, there were 1,000 members; with her help, membership has grown to more than 2,000.
Early in her retirement, Keiser saw a need for her colleagues to be more aware of the benefits available to them as retirees, so she began writing a retiree column in the newsletter of her former local, the Pawtucket Teachers’ Alliance, Local 930. “Some retirees are not fully aware that they have certain benefits. The column tells them about those benefits,” says Keiser. “Being available to support retirees who have questions about retirement is one of the best things about what I do. This is work that I feel connected to.”
In addition, Keiser decided to head a communications committee made up of retired volunteers. Their mission is to keep retired members up-to-date on the lawsuit challenging changes to Rhode Island’s state pension system.
Keiser is also active in her community through her church, where she serves as the church treasurer, secretary and a member of the community outreach committee, and also does just about any job that needs doing, right down to working in the church soup kitchen. Her efforts were recognized in 2004 when she was given the Bishop Higgins Award. The award is given each year to a special person for “distinguished and meritorious service” on behalf of the Episcopal Charities Fund of Rhode Island.
As one nominator puts it, “I’ve had the privilege to work with so many selfless and dedicated union leaders. … It is an honor and a blessing, and a source of pride, to be able to count Carol as one of the best.”