Margaret Hoch-stein, 84, was born in Austria and lived later in Egypt before coming to the United States in 1957 with her family. She says it was about Christmastime 18 years ago when she heard a television ad seeking volunteers for the Read For Literacy program. She applied and has served as a volunteer ever since. She says it has provided some of her most memorable experiences.
Margaret Hochstein's life sounds like it would make for a fascinating novel.
She has lived in Austria and Egypt. She left the Middle East for the United States with her widowed mother after Egypt took control of the Suez Canal.
Ms. Hochstein, 84, though, said Read For Literacy Inc. has provided her some of her most memorable experiences.
For the past 18 years, Ms. Hochstein volunteered in the agency's office to produce information packets for prospective tutors and "whatever else they want me to do."
She said it was about Christmastime 18 years ago when she saw a television ad that said Read for Literacy, which had been in Toledo only about two years back then, was looking for volunteers. "I thought right away that would be interesting," Ms. Hochstein said.
She started as a tutor before preparing information packets for as many as 2,300 prospective students, said Jim Funk, Read For Literacy's director.
She has had a role in making tutoring available to as many as 87 percent of the 4,600 adult learners who have received services from Read For Literacy since 1986, he said.
Ms. Hochstein said she likes the feeling of making a difference in someone else's life.
Helping people learn to read opens doors for them, she said.
"I've enjoyed meeting different people. I've been [in Toledo] almost 50 years and I still enjoy talking to different people and learning different backgrounds. It's exciting to me," Ms. Hochstein said.
One can still hear the Austrian accent in her voice, even after being in the United States for a half century.
She was born in Vienna, Austria, and moved with her family to Alexandria, Egypt in 1930. There, she attended a Scottish-run school. Her family moved to the United States in 1957.
When Egypt took control of the Suez Canal, life became tense for foreigners. Her family struggled to get visas to leave. Her family moved to Toledo because the person who sponsored them lived here, she said.
She said she related to adult learners through her own experiences in adapting to new countries, environments, and in learning how to read and write different languages.
"Of course I enjoyed [volunteering]," Ms. Hochstein said. "I feel like I'm doing something worthwhile. When people had problems, I felt I could relate to them. I could really feel what people were going through."
She said she knows six languages and speaks English, German, and French fluently. She also speaks Arabic, Greek, and Italian.
After moving to America, she worked for an international company that valued her language skills.
"I knew people from all religions and nationalities and we all got along fine," Ms. Hochstein said. "That's why I can't understand all of this fighting. No one tried to convert one another, but we all learned from each other."
Her husband, Alexander Eric Hochstein, was an engineer. He died in 1998. One son is an inventor in the Detroit area. Her youngest son is an economist in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Funk said Ms. Hochstein's empathy and dedication are models for other tutors.
Diana Bush, who has served as coordinator of tutors and students for 17 years, said Ms. Hochstein is "a pretty fascinating person."
"She's been a part of us for the past 18 years and has had a hands-on role with our prospective tutors and adult learners," Ms. Bush said.
Contact Clyde Hughes at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6095.
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