You’ve been in the workforce for decades. You’ve always wanted to volunteer but never found the time. Or perhaps you’ve volunteered in small ways, such as helping with fall cleanup in a park.
But now you are retired and ready for a more significant commitment. But where to turn?
Rod Olson, a Colorado author and life coach, has a suggestion: If you match your career skills with a volunteer position, it’s a win-win.
“People with great skill sets and expertise can still use these skill sets in retirement,” he said “Volunteering gives you a purpose, makes you part of the team.”
Today’s volunteers are an essential part of organizations that need their energy, expertise and time.
Sandra Malone, who is in her 80s, found the transition from paid to unpaid work easy.
“The work I did for both were in tandem with each other. Even after I left my paying job, I still worked in the same field, in education and mentoring,” she said.
She initially worked as an educator and administrator in the Dallas school district. For the last 10 years of her career, she worked with a U.S. district judge making sure that area schools were complying with federal desegregation laws.
Today, she volunteers with two national organizations, the Links Inc., a group of professional women of color in volunteer work, and the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. Her duties have included doing social justice work and registering voters.
“Volunteering is important to me because it helps me be involved and active in important community issues while helping to make the quality of life better for others,” she said.
Noel Campos, 78, retired in 2006 after a career that included 23 years in the U.S. Air Force and 10 years in the aerospace and defense industry. Upon retiring, he began volunteer shifts at a hospital as well as serving at a senior center, where he drives people to their medical appointments.
“I was ready to do something when I retired. And I’m glad I did. No way I want to work for money anymore — too many rules!” he said.
The volunteer gigs make him happy: “I enjoy giving back to the community.”
A power couple
Tom and Rita Chasser, both 74, volunteer together at a food pantry. She was a thoracic nurse, and he was a risk and insurance manager with Exxon Mobil. The couple, married for 50 years, volunteered regularly at their church before retirement.
Every Friday for 14 years, the couple have worked a four-hour shift at the food pantry, distributing groceries to clients and keeping the shelves stocked. For the past three years, they’ve also volunteered at a cancer-treatment center, “part of giving back after Tom’s treatment there,” Rita said.
They’ve made new friends through their work.
“One of the benefits is meeting new people with whom we now socialize regularly,” Tom said.
Rod Franz, 69, was a management associate at J.C. Penney, where he worked for 37 years. When he retired in 2010, he decided to rely on his avocation — gardening — rather than his vocation. He volunteered at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.
“It was the beauty of the gardens that initially drew me to volunteer, but it’s the interaction with amazing fellow volunteers, staff and visitors that keeps drawing me back,” he said.
He doesn’t just work with the plants. “For those who enjoy meeting people from all over the world, there are tour guide, education department, gift shop, information booth, tram driver, evening concert and holiday event volunteer positions,” he said.
Rena Poletes, 77, worked as a senior sales and service representative with American Airlines. When she left the workforce in 2008, she found a volunteer spot at the C.R. Smith Museum, which is on the American Airlines campus in Fort Worth and is dedicated to preserving the company’s history.
“Volunteering there allows the airline atmosphere to stay alive for me,” Poletes said.