Man#039;s new investment is giving his time to others

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 5, 2003

Retirement has not found Dick Davis, of San Francisco, sitting on his laurels.

Davis is spending a month in Austin as a volunteer, teaching citizenship and English as Second Language (ESL) classes. A retired stockbroker since 2000, he has been a part of the group Global Volunteers. This organization came to Austin a year ago. Davis has volunteered in Mexico and Spain as an ESL teacher through this organization.

"Of the three places I have taught in my travels, the 10-year-old boys in Spain were the hardest to teach, as they were like a bag of cats. They couldn't sit still and were moving all over the place. I loved it," Davis said.

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Besides Spain and Mexico, Davis spent three weeks in Dublin, Ireland, painting and building a stone wall for a place called the Reconciliation Center.

"I painted more than anything else in Ireland. I am sure I put more paint on that place than Michelangelo did on the Sistine Chapel, but it was all the same color," Davis laughed.

This year Davis was looking for a new place to volunteer. He was searching the Global Volunteers Web site where he found out about its work in Austin.

He contacted Janice Minos of the Minnesota Literacy Council and said he wanted to come here for a month to volunteer. Global Volunteers usually volunteer for a week at a time.

Now Davis is teaching citizenship classes mornings and evenings in the Adult Learning Center at Woodson School. He spends a couple evenings a week as a volunteer assistant for ESL at the Austin Work Center.

"Citizenship classes are about what we basically know (as American citizens) and some things we think we know. By the end of teaching this course, I will know all the states and capitals for the first time since fifth grade," Davis said.

Teaching the class, Davis goes over such topics as timelines of the United States, symbols and reviewing the Constitution and amendments. He says his students find the subjects fascinating. He is surprised by what the students know about the United States and other times is surprised by what they don't know. His largest class is in the evening with nine students.

"I treat what I do like an adventure. As a retired individual, I like to travel. I taught investments for 30 years; now, I am rearranging my portfolio with my volunteer work. Being a volunteer, unlike a tourist, you become part of the community. You get to know a place quicker. I have been here a little over a week and I find Austin to be a very gracious and friendly town that is beautifully laid out," Davis said.

He has visited the Spam Museum and found it fascinating. He has eaten at Tendermaid and finds it wonderful that it has been in business since 1938 and survived three generations. Davis is impressed with the Paramount Theatre, and has taken in two shows. He rented a bike from Rydjor Bike Shop and was taken with their collection of old bicycles. El Mariachi, he says, serves up the best food in town.

However, he noted Mi Tienda has the best guacamole in town.

"I am privileged to be here and teach these courses," Davis said.