PEACE CORPS ENCORE: 'Today is my someday'

Preparing with instructor Katie Johnstone (center) for their Peace Corps assignment in St. Lucia are Lois and Scott Hill. They are serving with the Peace Corps in St. Lucia. Photo by Geoff Forester for USA Today.


A growing number of boomers are choosing encore careers with the Peace Corps. Spokeswoman Josie Duckett says in USA Today that applications of those age 50 and older have increased 50 percent since it launched a campaign targeting boomers last September.

Part of the appeal of the Peace Corps is that it was established by President John F. Kennedy, who was a role model for many boomers in their youth. The current campaign directed at boomers is called “Still Asking What You Can Do for Your Country?”

Loyci Stockey, 64, who recently left Seattle to start a Peace Corps assignment in Uganda, told USA Today that she never forgot JFK’s message when she heard it during high school. “I tucked it away in the back of my head to act on someday,” she said. “Today is my someday.”

Currently, 406 Americans in the Peace Corps fall into the “50 and above” age category – about 5 percent of all those serving. The organization aims to increase the number to 15 percent by 2010. The 50+ Volunteers section of its Web site answers frequently asked questions and includes an online application.

Among those working for the organization are Encore.org members Gale Lederer, Eric Goldman and Dorothy Schoeneman. Goldman, 59, directs a program with universities that offer master’s degrees to students who integrate Peace Corps work with their academic studies. Schoeneman, who joined the Peace Corps at age 64 and served as a health education volunteer in Mali, West Africa, now serves as a recruiter for the organization.

Other Encore.org members who have had encore careers in the Peace Corps include Dorothy Kay, who was 70 when she returned from her 27-month assignment in Thailand, where she taught English. Anthony Gasbarro was inspired by his Peace Corps assignment in El Salvador to commit his “retirement” to finding scholarships for poor rural children who want to attend high school. He has expanded the program from assisting eight students in 1998 to more than 230 during 2008.

Encore.org’s parent organization, Civic Ventures, has Peace Corps ties as well. Former U.S. Senator Harris Wofford (D-Penn.), who sits on the board of directors, worked closely with Sargent Shriver in creating the Peace Corps, then went on to serve as its special representative to Africa and director of its Ethiopia program. Civic Ventures COO Laura Chambers served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal, an experience she calls “formative,” and she hopes to join the Corps again one day.