President will cite Peoria man for his volunteerism

Erinn Deshinsky

When Roy Storey got a call from Washington, D.C., telling him he was going to meet the president of the United States, the Peorian hung up the phone.

"I thought it was the telemarketer," he said with a laugh. "She called back immediately. She said, ‘Mr. Storey, I don’t want to take your money.’"

The mistake was understandable, and the 85-year-old was elated to learn that President George W. Bush will present him with the President’s Volunteer Service Award as he arrives in Peoria on Friday.

"To me it’s a big honor," Storey said Wednesday. "It’s sort of a surprise — I’m just an old guy, going on with my daily work."

During his six years volunteering with the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), "Grandpa Roy," as he’s known by students, tries to instill some parental guidance in children who he said have grown up in hard times, much like him.

His earliest memories are of growing up in an orphanage in a little village in the foothills of the Himalayas.

He recalls being beaten by teachers during his time in the orphanage and said he had a very poor education. Through all the hardships, however, he kept his quick wit and work ethic.

"Those values I try to teach the students," he said. "I tell them my stories, I share with them. I’m a very strict mentor."

Storey’s tutored more than 100 students a year at three Peoria District 150 schools, Von Steuben, Glen Oak and Hines elementary schools. He teaches reading and math to the 5- and 6-year-olds four days a week and said he’s thinking of adding more schools.

"I like to keep busy," he said, adding he can’t wait for school to start again.

In addition to the tutoring, he also reads to children at local libraries and has visited area nursing homes.

"It’s about trying to make a difference in people’s lives," he said. "That’s my aim in life."

The president will present the national award during his trip to Peoria for a fundraiser for state Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, who is running for the 18th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Bush has met with more than 650 volunteers since March 2002 as he travels throughout the United States.

In addition to that award, the Illinois Humanities Council, a not-for-profit educational organization, awarded Storey with the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award for his work with RSVP.

RSVP is a program for residents older than 55 to share their skills and life experiences through volunteer service.

Storey said his three daughters are also proud of his upcoming presidential recognition. Two will be joining him for the honor.

"I have to behave myself," said the self-proclaimed prankster.

Pausing long enough to get out a burst of laughter, he added, "I will."

Erinn Deshinsky can be reached at (309) 686-3112 or