Sisters Talking On…Volunteering

Point for Discussion:

Retirement provides a good opportunity to become part of your local community by volunteering and getting involved in supporting your fellow citizens, local government and or churches. Many of these organizations seek out experienced retirees to help out for a few hours per week.

Points of View:

(Lynn)

While I was working, my company sponsored me to participate in a professional mentoring program for future executives.  I was matched with a mentor that guided me through a one year period.  His first question for me was “what are your long-term goals?”  When I answered that I wanted to be CEO (of course I always aim high) for a while, then retire and give back.  I think I surprised him, because he gave me a very strange look and asked why I would want to do that. Not surprising, many people don’t give back as you can see in Laurie’s stats below, but for me, I feel it’s important to share where I can.  While I was working, there was no time to help out.  Now that I’m retired, I can devote some of my time to helping others.

I have been volunteering since High School.  I’ve helped out in meal share programs, food pantries, community organizations, mentoring programs and fundraisers.

Deciding where to help out isn’t always easy.  I want to feel like what I’m doing is important for someone.  Looking to your skill set or personal passions is a good place to start.  You certainly don’t want to return to the level of stress experienced at work so focusing on the things you can do easily or feel strongly about should, hopefully, reduce your stress level.  Even with that, I find I still learn from everything I do, and everyone I work with.

My first post-retirement position was as a bookkeeper at my local Salvation Army. I put my financial skill set to work. I learned more about the organization and what they offer to the local community than I ever understood before.  It also opened my eyes regarding the level of support some members of my community need.  For all of the good fortune and prosperity in the US, many of our fellow Americans struggle everyday.  There are many organizations that provide support looking for volunteers.  I found this position by walking in the door and asking about it.

I also supported my local government as a member of our Planning Commission.   This position allowed me to ask questions during the review process for potential projects while ensuring that community impacts were considered.

Reading is my other love.  I can escape to other places and meet amazing people in books.  But there are many among us that are not able to do this.  For many reasons, some students pass through our public education system and graduate without possessing the ability to read.  Our local library network has an adult literacy program with two objectives. The first is to improve the reading skills of adult members of our community.  The second is to teach English as a second language.  Many of the tutors in the program are retired teachers.  It has been a challenge for me as a retired bean counter, but rewarding as well.

I am always looking for new opportunities to help out in my community. While a bit old school, I found the Literacy program and the Planning Commission positions in our local newspaper.

If you’re interested in working with a specific organization, check their website.  I have found that many organizations have volunteer applications available on their sites.

I am also registered at volunteermatch.org.  I receive emails regularly with local volunteering opportunities.

I spend six to ten hours per week volunteering in my community.  It’s not a lot of time (I’m a busy retiree after all!) but it is extremely rewarding and allows me to feel useful.

(Laurie)

Have you wanted to volunteer, but have not had the time to commit?  You are not alone.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, 62 million Americans volunteered.  According to the 2015 Current Population Survey (CPS), 28% of boomers aged 45-54 (just a subset) were volunteering.  Still, this is a lot of people doing a lot of good things for good people (and animals!).

You can volunteer at different points in time – whether during your work life, while looking for work, or after retiring, which opens up time for many boomers to devote time to volunteer activities.

You can volunteer in a number of ways – whether through mentoring, tutoring, fundraising, or devoting time to an organization that you feel connected with, and as Lynn mentioned, something that allows you to apply your hard-earned skills.  You can have a big impact with even a small amount of time.  And it’s good for you, too!  You will be contributing and feel the rewards of helping!  It’s also a wonderful way to network and meet like-minded people, which is also nice for socializing.

It’s a big decision about where to volunteer since there are so many options, and you may only have time to devote to one or two organizations.  Here are some of the inputs I thought about when deciding where to volunteer:

Who – who am I, and what can I offer to help others? (e.g., life and work experience)

What – what would I like to do, and what can I do? (e.g., no heavy lifting!)

When – when can I be available, and how often? (e.g., that I can keep up with)

Where – where can I get to?  Where are some local needs for volunteers?

Why – why do I want to volunteer, and who needs my help?

After consideration of several potential areas (e.g., mentoring, crisis hotline, food pantry, nature areas, animal care, home building, and more), I went to a local art fair where I saw a booth for an animal sanctuary, and I wanted to learn more.  I went to a local orientation session (no obligation), heard about what is needed, and found a great fit.  I’ve been volunteering for about 6 months so far, and it’s become a part of my routine.

There are so many benefits that I’ve already been experiencing:

  • I’m meeting people (everyone is so nice and nurturing, putting the animals first).
  • I’m applying my career skills as a market researcher (I am able to observe and analyze animal behavior)
  • I’m continuing to learn (“on the job” and through online classes to learn about the animals and what they need)
  • I’m connected to something meaningful, which adds purpose to my life.
  • I’m contributing to animal well-being, which just makes me happy :-).

Consider YOUR who/what/when/where and why, and find a volunteer opportunity that enriches the lives of others while also enriching your own!  Just a few hours a week can make a big difference.

Our Question for You:

If you are volunteering, or are interested in volunteering, what motivated/motivates you the most to start volunteering?  What tools or websites did you utilize to find these opportunities?

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