The Champaign Unit 4 school district offers seniors a great way to connect – and enjoy a variety of school-sponsored events for free.
The Unit 4 Gold Card Club is a free, twice-a-year opportunity for seniors to connect at a Unit 4-provided breakfast at one of the district’s schools.
“It was started (in early 2008) as a way to invite seniors who pay taxes to the Champaign schools to get into the schools so they could see what’s going on,” said Lauren Smith, Unit 4’s community outreach coordinator. “I think we usually mail out 70 or so invitations and usually there are 20 or 25 seniors that come. A lot of them are the ones who come every time and really enjoy coming. We’re always looking for new people to come, too.”
Joining is easy. The only requirements: You must be at least 55 and reside in the Unit 4 district. Membership allows you to attend the two breakfasts dubbed “Share the Schools” – one in the fall, one in the spring – and to gain free entry into Unit 4-hosted sporting events, plays, performances, etc. (The only exceptions are IHSA-sponsored postseason tournaments, which require an admission fee.)
The next breakfast is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 29, from 9:30-10:30 a.m. at Barkstall Elementary. Those who aren’t yet a member can fill out the application online or contact Smith via email or phone.
Smith said many Gold Club members also serve as volunteers in Unit 4 but that is not a requirement. The district has more than 2,000 volunteers annually, filling numerous roles and, in some cases, serving as mentors.
“We can always use more volunteers,” Smith said. “Anybody that volunteers in the district does get a background check. They can fill it out online. If you are a mentor and working with students one-on-one without any staff supervision, then you do a fingerprint and that’s a different process.”
Smith said she receives comments from those who might be hesitant to become a mentor: “’Nobody would want to meet with me if I’m 75 years old,’” she relayed. “That is not true at all. There are plenty of mentors that are 70-plus that kids love because they show up every week.”
Volunteers can choose at which school they’d like to volunteer. Unit 4 currently is working with the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce on a program called “iRead iCount,” which brings people into five Unit 4 elementary schools to read or count with kindergarteners.
“The program has been appealing to a lot of people because it’s an hour, and they know exactly what they’re doing. But there’s a lot of other opportunities, too.”
For more information about volunteer opportunities, visit our post.