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Riderwood Residents Share Their and Their Families' Peace Corps Experiences as World Celebrates 50th Anniversary of the Humanitarian Organization

August 26, 2011

SILVER SPRING, MD (August 26, 2011) - As the world prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps on September 22 residents of Riderwood retirement community in Silver Spring are sharing their and their families' experiences with the humanitarian organization. And they are filled with joy and pride in doing so. Their stories follow:

  • Penny O'Brien joined the Peace Corps in 1991 when she was 63 years old, after her husband died and their children were independent. She served in Dominica in the West Indies. Penny promoted changes in the teaching of science; she offered ways to have less lecturing and more discovery and hands-on learning in elementary schools. She volunteered in the Peace Corps 50thAnniversary tent at the Folk Life Festival on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., this summer.
  • Edith Patey became a mid-life widow in the 1970's and then volunteered in the Peace Corps. She volunteered in St. Lucia collecting birth and death records for two years. She stayed there for another two years.
  • Jim Feldman's grandson, David Koch, was in Macedonia for two and a half years with the Peace Corps. He taught English and worked with local teachers to better train them. While he was there, he learned to speak Macedonian and Albanian.
  • Margaret O'Brien's son worked for the Peace Corps in Senegal, on the west coast of Africa, in 1995. He taught the locals how to use more effective agricultural methods. After his Peace Corps experience, he is now the Director of Sustainability at American University. Margaret's niece was also a Peace Corps volunteer. She took a crash course in Spanish and was then stationed in Costa Rica from 1989-1990. She worked in a primitive retirement facility, encouraging interesting and caring activities.
  • Dinnie Burkhart's  daughter, Ellen, served in Cameroon from 1982-1984 as an advisor to credit unions. Dinnie's son-in-law, David, served in Niger from 1988-1990 on a seed production project. Ellen and David met at a party for returning volunteers, married and returned to Africa. They are considering serving again after retirement and hope their children will join the Peace Corps too.
  • Gloria Sapiro's daughter, Elaine, went to a remote tribal village in the Central African Republic in the late eighties. She had been educated in international affairs but taught essential health and hygiene skills there. Today, she is an ER physician.
  • Marian Fox's son, Stephen, went to Thailand in 1971. He taught English to a Thai student named Lai, who he hosted in his stilted, thatched-roof hut. Lai lived so far from a high school that he would have had no education past elementary level. He is now a teacher. The Peace Corps group that volunteered together was involved in creating lessons and reproducing them on hand-cranked mimeographs for classes all over the country. Many members of the group continued their volunteerism and moved to the Department of Education in Bangkok. Her son and his peers produced the textbook that is now used for teaching English in Thailand.

The Peace Corps' mission to help others and create a better understanding of people worldwide reflects Riderwood's mission to "Share Our Gifts to Celebrate Life."  There will be many events in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps on September 22. Please visit to find out more about this celebration.