At the age of 59 I found myself in early retirement after a long career in non-profit management. Like so many others new to retirement, I had time on my hands and a desire to give back. So I started a consulting business out of my home, which allowed me to use my skills and gain some income.
I had just completed a successful phone call with a client, and decided to take a break by watching the tail end of Oprah. The stellar cast of guests -- the First Lady, military spouses, and journalists Bob Woodward and Tom Brokaw -- shared compelling stories about the sacrifices of military families and suggested that everyone can honor and support our veterans by volunteering in our communities. I especially recall military spouses and the First Lady offering simple yet concrete ways in which volunteering can make a significant impact in the lives of military families. This really struck a chord with me.
In the past my volunteering was really by happenstance -- an organization needed help with a clothing drive, making calls for a college telethon, or stuffing envelopes for a mailing. If I were available, I'd try to lend a hand. But this time I wanted to offer more. With my faith and the talents and expertise acquired over 20 years in non-profit management and fundraising development, I knew I had a lot to offer. However, I was so busy creating my own business that I was apprehensive about how much time I could give. I kept an open mind as I copied the website address, www.Serve.gov, just in case.
Within 24 hours of completing a short online survey of interest and skills, I received a phone call from a local Senior Corps volunteer organization called Lifespan/RSVP which matches volunteers with local opportunities. With such a quick turnaround, I jokingly asked whether they were waiting for my application. Within the week I received training and orientation and was introduced to not one, but two organizations that matched my interests.
Today I'm loving my new role as an RSVP volunteer, providing planning and development assistance to Partners in Restorative Initiatives (PIRI), a community-based organization that works with schools, courts and communities to resolve conflict and instill restorative practices through education, advocacy, training and facilitation. I've enjoyed the experience of volunteering so much that in addition, I offer academic support to local elementary students at the Notre Dame Learning Center. Am I busy? Busier is more like it! But what a feeling of gratitude to pay it forward.
I am proud to be a Baby Boomer and part of a generation whose children and grandchildren see us as role models who give back in a sincerity of gratitude. What we Boomers offer as volunteers to an agency, organization or non-profit is invaluable. And what we receive as volunteers is invaluable as well -- you can't put a price on a mother's "thank you" for your time and dedication when she sees her 11-year-old son beaming with pride as his confidence in reading grows.
I am learning that to make a big difference, you can start with a simple act. No matter what your time or interest, everyone can serve. Do something for yourself and your community and call your local volunteer agency. Now!
Check out the slideshow of baby boomer volunteers!