In the late 1980s, Illinois schools were suffering from brain-drain. The moms who had traditionally volunteered as classroom assistants and after-school mentors and tutors were going back into the work force, leaving an enormous hole in the volunteer force that typically filled gaps that can occur between children and schoolrooms and homes.
In order to fill the school pool with fresh volunteer energy, the HURRAH program was born in 1990 with the mission of tapping the ever-expanding body of retirees who had experience, skills, smarts—and time—to give to kids.
Enter Russ Marineau.
In 1991, Russ was freshly retired from 32 years with IBM. He didn’t want to slide into a rocking chair quite yet, so he joined HURRAH—which stands for Happy Upbeat Retirees (& other) Residents Actively Helping—and started mentoring at Washington Junior High School in Illinois School District 203, where all five of his own children had attended.
Prior to retiring, Russ had gone to several IBM Retirement Planning sessions where he was told he would miss the structure, status, social contact and sense of accomplishment that work offered. He was told that volunteering could put those elements back into a post-work life.
“HURRAH certainly has provided me with those things, but for me it was also an opportunity to give back to my community,” says Russ.
Russ has given back to his community in spades. Within four years, he was Chairman of the HURRAH Executive Council (a position he holds to this day). Pretty quickly, the man who began his IBM career as a systems engineer and ended as an account executive in marketing started to apply over 30 years of critical thinking and planning to the HURRAH program, bringing IBM acumen to the business of volunteering.
In 1996 Russ conducted a planning session where teachers, volunteers and administrators were asked: What are the objectives of the HURRAH program? What are the inhibitors that could keep us from meeting them? What do we need to do to overcome the inhibitors?
From their answers, a strategic plan was created; one that is updated each year to assure the program continues to meet the needs of the schools it serves. As the years went by, Russ developed guidelines for implementing HURRAH into other schools in other districts, and established a HURRAH recruiting plan. He has presented the HURRAH model all over Illinois, and other cities have started volunteer programs which are based on HURRAH.
In addition to many awards from the Naperville school district, Russ has received awards from the Illinois Association of School Administrators and the Illinois State Board of Education. In 2003 he won the Naperville Jaycees Distinguished Service Award—Senior Citizen, and in 2006 he won the Continuance magazine “Spirit of Generation Award.”
In 2007 he was appointed as a delegate to the Illinois Senate Forum on Intergenerational Leadership by the then-president of the Illinois Senate.
After 20 years of volunteering, one would think Russ is ready to finally reach for that rocking chair. Nope. He still volunteers at the junior high, helping with special education students. “When I retired after 32 years with IBM, I told people that my mother lived until 93 and, if I could do that, I would be volunteering longer than I worked at IBM.”
Russ Marineau knows that volunteers are the oil that keeps the machinery of schools running. Every time he does a presentation on HURRAH, he tells the audience: “Volunteers are not paid. This is not because they are worthless—it’s because they are priceless.”