We can point to numerous surveys that relate the benefits of volunteering and well-being, but maybe you're more of a show-me type and need proof. Consider these volunteers who are still making the time to serve others as they approach age 100 and beyond.
Ruth Wench of Osawatomie, Kan., doesn't like to talk about herself much, but others gush about the longtime Foster Grandparent.
"She's one of the best," says Sherry Duer, a Foster Grandparent program supervisor for 30 years. "She's one of the most intelligent people -- she has a lot of wisdom and kids are magnetized to her."
Ruth is 104 and lives by herself but keeps active volunteering in the program and her community, including being a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church for 92 years. She began volunteering after she retired from the Osawatomie State Hospital, initially working with adults and teenagers in the same place she held a job for so many years.
She eventually found her way to Foster Grandparents, and her personality made her a natural.
"She's open and loving and never holds a grudge," Duer says. "All these kids are her kids."
As Ruth ticks off the places she's worked in the nearly 20 years spent in the program and talks about her volunteering, it's easy to see how she would be good with children.
"Everybody is just so loving -- no one is a stranger," Wench said.
She's looking forward to her next assignment and has advice for anyone considering following in her footsteps.
"Get busy and get with it," Wench says. "Volunteer and get active. Don't worry about getting in the way."
103 Years Young and Still Giving Back
Virginia McLaurin, Senior Corps Volunteer, Washington, D.C.
Unlike most of us, Virginia McLaurin doesn't need an alarm clock to wake up every morning before she heads to work. The 103-year-old Washington, D.C., resident and Senior Corps volunteer looks forward each morning to her trip to Sharpe Health School to serve as a Foster Grandparent and mentor to special-needs students. While Virginia helps students with their reading and social skills, she says it's the students who keep her young at heart. "I just love kids," Virginia says, "working with them keeps me going."
Fondly referred to as "Grandma Virginia," Virginia has volunteered at C. Melvin Sharpe Health School for 20 years, serving 40 hours a week. She was introduced to the program by a friend from her church who knew Virginia was interested in finding ways to make life better for those in her community. "I volunteer because I like doing something that helps people. I started training for the Foster Grandparent Program at Sharpe and I loved it. I just kept coming back."
The students at Sharpe have taught Virginia a few things, too. "I always learn from kids -- they love me and I love them. They tell me to slow down and raise my hand if I have a question, and they always try to protect me -- it's really nice."
Occasionally, a teacher at Sharpe will see Virginia on her morning walk to school and offer her a ride in. Sometimes she takes them up on the offer, but Virginia always walks home in the afternoon. "I need that walk," Virginia says. "I might take my time, but it keeps me feeling great, keeps me energized." Serving as a volunteer not only helps children, but also helps Virginia maintain an active, healthy lifestyle. In fact, Virginia says, "The children keep me young and alive, helping them every day."
Last year, 27,900 Foster Grandparents like Virginia served as tutors and mentors for more than 232,200 children and youth with special or exceptional needs. Virginia is working to increase these numbers and often tells older adults that they should consider volunteering. She tells them, "Why don't you do something? I think you'll live longer."
If Virginia's story is any indication, this super-star volunteer knows exactly how volunteering benefits both herself and the lives of young people in her community.
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