“Know Your Nonprofits” is a weekly column in the Times-Standard that takes an in-depth look at nonprofit organizations throughout Humboldt County. This week’s featured nonprofit is the California Retired Teachers Association, North Coast Division 27. Donna Clark, Division 27 president and membership chair answered the following questions.
Briefly describe your organization and its mission: CalRTA, California Retired Teachers Association’s mission is to protect and advocate for retired and active educators’ pensions and other retirement benefits and to support public education in our communities. Locally, we are the North Coast Division 27, covering Humboldt and Del Norte counties. We established the 27th division in 1954. Today, CalRTA is one of the nation’s largest retired teacher organizations with more than 43,000 members in 86 local divisions (similar to chapters) throughout the state.
When and why was this nonprofit founded?: CalRTA began in 1929 as the country struggled through the Great Depression. A small group of teachers banded together to fight for better pensions for colleagues who were living in poverty after a lifetime of teaching. In 1929, a retired schoolteacher received a maximum of just $500 a year in pension benefits. Laura E. Settle, CalRTA’s founder and president until 1945, drove the dusty highways of the state to help organize teachers in a common cause. All were welcome to join for the annual dues of $1. After several years, CalRTA made its first major breakthrough in 1934, when pensions were finally boosted.
Is there anything you wish more people knew about the organization or the issues this nonprofit is trying to solve? North Coast Division 27 wants folks to know that the “teacher” in our name is a legacy name. So in fact, we have administrators, librarians, school nurses and speech pathologists as well as other educators who are members. Anyone who supports our mission is welcome to join. We have lots of spouses of teachers who are members, too. Our biggest issue right now is to overturn the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO), two statutes that unfairly target teachers who have paid into Social Security.
Where does most of the nonprofit’s funding come from?: CalRTA’s funding comes entirely from member dues and donations. We also raise money for teacher grants from donations and promote student-teacher scholarships from our Humboldt Area Foundation account.
How can people get involved with your organization?: Anyone is welcome to visit our state and local websites: calrta.org and div27.calrta.org. These websites will give people more information, contacts and membership applications.
We are sponsoring a blood drive on Nov. 10. All are welcome to donate that week at the Northern California Community Blood Bank or the mobile clinics. Just mention “CalRTA.” At our last drive, we donated 30 pints.
Tell me about a few of your organization’s recent accomplishments: North Coast Division 27 donates $250 annually to the Clarke Historical Museum, Morris Graves Museum of Art, Discovery Museum and the Sequoia Park education fund. We run annual scholarships for student-teachers and have new teacher grants for first-time teachers from Southern Humboldt, the greater Eureka area, Northern Humboldt and Del Norte County. We average about 25 of these $100 grants annually, In Del Norte County, we have scholarships for Del Norte High School’s students going into education. Since 2006, we have donated about $120,000 in grants and scholarships. Our members donate thousands of volunteer hours in our communities. Our members are modest, so with only 23 of our more than 560 members reporting, we logged 12,631 volunteer hours for 2020.
What challenges has the pandemic created for your organization and how has the nonprofit dealt with those challenges? We had to stop meeting a year ago in March like everyone else. I started having board meetings via Zoom. I asked my board to meet monthly rather than every other month. Then, we had our first Zoom general meeting on Oct. 8, 2020. We have been meeting that way every other month since then. We hope to have an in-person picnic next September. We have tried to call all of our members because some were not able to join Zoom. We continued to publish our newsletter and distribute it by mail and email.
To participate in the “Know Your Nonprofits” column, contact Heather Shelton at firstname.lastname@example.org.