Sunday, August 26, 2001

Ed Krentzman, head of a senior volunteer program
called Fellowship and Lifelong Learning Opportunities
at Waialae School, or FELLOWS, serves as a mentor
to students, from left, Issei Hammani, Sabrina Chew,
James Portwood and sisters Marissa and Amanda Sumida.

Seniors bond
with Waialae kids

The FELLOWS program helps
provide tutors and mentors to
Waialae Elementary students

By Pat Gee

Ed Krentzman always wanted children and grandchildren but never had any.

"Now I have 400 of them," said the 71-year-old Krentzman, head of a program for senior volunteers at Waialae Elementary School.

The Makiki resident is looking for help from others who wouldn't mind enjoying "the warmth of the leg hugs" from youngsters.

He and his 20 other volunteers could use a hand because the teachers' "wish list" for help keeps growing every year. This is the fourth year the FELLOWS program, the only senior center located on a school campus, is asking for more volunteers.

FELLOWS, which stands for Fellowship and Lifelong Learning Opportunities at Waialae School, held a recruitment party at the school on 1045 19th Ave. last week.

Volunteers must be at least 55 years of age and devote at least two hours a week. The program is a partnership between the school, the Hawaii Intergenerational Network and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program.

Krentzman said he started volunteering as a math tutor a few times a week in 1995 when he retired from the marketing and sales division of the Pitney Bowes Corp. This led to his joining the FELLOWS program.

Now he works eight to nine hours a day every day, usually helping about 40 kids throughout the day.

"It's fantastic. It's a win-win situation. I'm not sitting around wondering what to do and growing old. There's no way I can get Alzheimer's (disease). These kids keep you young," he said.

At first he was worried about "the myth that seniors and kids can't get along," but the rapport he developed with the kids was "instantaneous -- they treat us like their own grandparents. It's like that with everyone. There's never been a problem."

Krentzman said some of the letters of appreciation written to volunteers are "enough to make you bawl," he said.

"One gal, who lost her grandfather when very young, wrote that when she did something wrong," the volunteer "grandfather" corrected her about what she should have done instead, so "I know he really cares about me," Krentzman said, paraphrasing the note.

The youngsters also teach the seniors a thing or two. Krentzman, who describes himself as a former computer illiterate who still gets into trouble, said, "I usually wind up getting a third-grader to solve my problem. We learn a lot from them. I've learned most of the names for Pokemon (a card and video game)."

Three other Oahu schools are starting up comparable programs this year, he said.

To reach Krentzman, call 226-6992.

E-mail to City Desk

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