Volunteer and Manager at Condor Refuge in California with wild condors sitting on a flight cage holding captive condors inside. Photo: N.T. Ryan
Volunteers are precious! Working beside a good one can be fun and satisfying, but it’s easy to drift apart when the job is done. This week some of them returned to our life:
- One who had been seriously ill is feeling better now, and she phoned.
- We chatted with an official who oversaw a charitable organization while we had served on its board of directors.
- We got another phone call, this one from a fellow member of another charitable organization.
- We visited the agency where we most recently volunteered.
In our case, volunteering has paid off in friendships, in learning interesting new things, and in the satisfaction of doing something worthwhile. We have been active in school and church music programs over the years; have served on boards of directors; and even had a Girl Scout troop.
Phase I of retirement began suddenly with our surprise arrival at the hospital.
We fell ill while at work and never returned. The subsequent year was devoted to regaining health and to retraining as a Computer Network Administrator. We also returned to church.
We worked part time for a publisher and we learned to play duplicate bridge. Our Dad was fading in competence; we became his caregiver. One of our sisters did the same for our Mom. Caring for an ageing parent who lives 135 miles away is quite a challenge!
Phase II was catch-up time for recreation and personal growth.
We and Spouser traveled a bit and took some cruises, remodeled the house and yard, went camping, read lots of books and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! We also took up quilting, which is challenging and full of beauty.
Phase III opened the volunteer-intensive time of life.
We joined the local Woman’s Club. These clubs have been around for over 100 years. There is even a display about them in the Smithsonian Institution! Ours helped establish our county’s first public library many years ago. There were many ways to serve the Woman’s Club: Study Section Leader; banquet table decorator; bridge player; Board member; newsletter publisher; refreshments contributor. The list goes on…
Phase IV sprang from Woman’s Club friendships.
We joined the retirement chapter of a business women’s service club and the local chapter of a national charity. The service club did very little except raise money for a scholarship and meet for lunch. The charity, on the other hand, was very rewarding and time consuming for a while. We helped in the thrift shop, preparing home appliances for sale and helping customers. We also worked on the accounting system and with several annual fund raising events. This period was when we opened a non-profit duplicate bridge club. The club failed financially, but it was great fun while it lasted. We also served as a Medicare counselor for the Department of Ageing and as a member of the County Grand Jury.
Retirement Phase V was the last phase of active volunteer work.
The nearby office of a Federal agency had an active volunteer program. Not all of their slots were of the “guiding wildflower walks” variety:
- We started by making file folder labels and filing documents in 3-ring binders;
- Got computer access and did the layout for an annual newsletter;
- Helped with the accounting system of a charitable organization associated with one of the agency’s properties;
- Put an illustrated herbarium on the Web and joined Web page team;
- Learned enough mapping software skills to prepare several maps for the Web; and
- We prepared and entered data from original documents into a computer database.
There were many other ways to help out, and we did a lot of them. It was fascinating to learn about the agency’s mission and see how they fulfilled it.
Phase VI wasn’t supposed to happen yet, but last year’s knee surgery did not go well.
We tried unsuccessfully to return to the agency a couple of times, but could not keep up the pace. We can return when ready, and probably will.
This phase is quite different, so far. We have focused on sedentary activities that work well with limited mobility. Newer interests include this blog and learning to draw.
Our volunteer friends reappeared at just the right time!
We can now go out for lunch, or to a movie or a play. These ladies will fill out our circle of friends to be invited!