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Retirees with a cause

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And the Interfaith Alliance, a left- leaning coalition of 150,000 individuals from 65 different religious backgrounds, relies on seniors to execute the majority of its local advocacy projects.

As baby boomers reach retirement, the nation's retired population is expanding to include more and more people who came of age by doing advocacy for one cause or another in the turbulent 1960s. But regardless of past experience, the enterprise of undertaking advocacy in retirement usually requires some new learning, whether that means boning up on complex issues or simply finding courage to take a public stand.

Rachel Paskowski, a retired nurse in Amesbury, Mass., lives a largely private life of keeping a kosher diet and honoring the Saturday Sabbath as a Nazarene Jew. But when she saw antiwar protests continuing after the war with Iraq began last month, she traveled to a busy highway crossing by herself to offer an alternative message with a sign: "Pray for President Bush and Our Troops."

"It took a lot of prayer and fasting to get me out there," Ms. Paskowski says. "I wanted to make sure [my motivation] was coming from my heavenly Father."

For Paskowski, being an advocate now means spending every Sunday afternoon rallying for the troops until the war is finished. In her second week, about 20 other civilians joined her in a cold downpour, rousing a chorus of supportive horns every time the traffic light changed.

For Rita Spina of Pittsboro, N.C., who's in her 70s, the journey into advocacy involved an education in crossing cultural boundaries.

In retirement from her private psychology practice, Ms. Spina learned of the struggles in a largely black township where residents lacked home healthcare services.

Finding money to send a visiting nurse would help enormously, she thought, but the project wouldn't fly until she learned to work with the local church.

"The church is the focal point of the African-American community [in Jordan Grove] ... but you can't go in there and say, 'I am the power that's going to help you'," Spina says. "You have to humble yourself before people who are trying to meet their own needs."

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