May 11, 2012

Volunteering During Retirement: What Do You Do?

I have written about my prison ministry volunteer activities several times and how important it is to my satisfying retirement. The response is usually strongly positive, but often comes with lingering questions from those who leave comments: what can I do?  I'd love to volunteer but I don't know where to begin.

USA Today had an article last week on Baby Boomers needed to volunteer more often as nonprofit organizations feel the pinch of less government and private support. Again though the question arises, what am I qualified to do? Where do I find out who needs me?

I Need You

Rather than run through some basic steps you can take, I thought it would make sense to turn to the experts: readers. I know many of the folks who visit this blog are active volunteers in all sorts of ways. So, I would deeply appreciate you responding in the comment section below with answers to any of these questions (if they apply to your volunteer situation):

1. What volunteer work do you do?
2. How did you decide this was a good fit?
3. Did try a few different things before you found one that fit you?
4. Have there been any drawbacks?

Like everyone else, I am very interested in learning about the wide variety of volunteer opportunities that exist for us. I bet there will be things I have never thought of that would be a tremendous way to give back to my community while feeling good about myself.

So, please, anything you do to help....let us know. Teaching Sunday school, walking a neighbor's dog because she can't, school crossing guard......it doesn't have to be as dramatic as working with prison inmates, but it might be! Our society has more needs than we have volunteers.

Do you know someone who is an inspiration in this area but he or she doesn't normally read this blog? Could I ask you a favor:  would you ask them to come over this one time and tell us about what they do?

Let's build a list of your ways to give back and inspire someone to put a spark into their satisfying retirement.

49 comments:

  1. My mom is looking to volunteer on a local radio station with a program reading news to the blind. Mostly s seniors audience who are low tech without computer news readers.

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    1. This is an excellent use of time and talent. As a former radio announcer I certainly know how important the medium can be to people's lives.

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  2. While I am not yet retired, I plan to be semi-retired next year. In anticipation of retirement, several years ago I became a Master Gardener. This is a nationwide program with particulars that vary state by state. It is administered in most areas by their State Agricultural college. It requires a set number of education hours to become qualified, then required hours of volunteer work every year and continuing education. I am an avid gardener and thought this would be a good fit for me. We do a lot of community projects, largely in educating home gardeners. We organize community gardens and staff a phone/question line during the growing season, participate in local fairs and just try to spread the love of gardening.

    All in all it has been a good fit for me. I've met a lot of wonderful people with similar interests. The education and occasional road trips are something I look forward to. The required hours are very easy and enjoyable to accumulate.

    My main complaint would be those that are present in every volunteer organization, fund raising and politics. When I first became a Master Gardener, our program was funded by the County. Since then 100% of our funding has been cut. We don't need a lot of money to operate, but are required by the program to have a paid coordinator. Although it is a low paying part time job it is still a lot of money to have to raise every year. There are also a lot of policies and procedures that the State college we are affiliated with has imposed upon the group. For example, we are not allowed to have raffles as a fund raiser because the college considers that gambling. They require us to purchase computers and soft ware through them so they are compatible with their programs and other things along those lines. They seem to treat us like we are employees and often need to be reminded we are unpaid volunteers.

    That being said, I still enjoy the organization and am glad I am a part of it.

    I am also a "Friend of the Library" and work at the yearly book sale. This is a organization I hope to become more active with when I am not working full time. And I volunteer at my Church fund raisers and help to work in the gardens there.

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    1. I have never heard of a Master Gardener program...how interesting. With more people wanting to grow their own vegetables and others realizing how relaxing gardening can be, I can see a real value in that program. Good for you!

      The political aspect is tremendously unfortunate. Once a bureaucrat gets involved what was straight forward suddenly is not. Your point about having to remind them you are a volunteer is important, but I bet they really don't care: policies and procedures are what matter.

      Governments claim they want more citizen involvement, but that is just a slogan. Many of them view volunteers as an irritant and too much trouble to deal with. Sad.

      I love libraries and anyone who is an official "Friend of the Library" has my life-long support.

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  3. Not retired yet, but a few years back decided there was a lack of children in my life. Got on the local volunteer bureau web site and found an opportunity to tutor/mentor an elementary school child in reading. They assigned me an 8 year old girl, and pretty soon her 9 year old brother started accompanying us on our trips to the library, too. They're 16 and 15 now and we're still in touch; we've gone on many field trips (museums, bowling, skating) and they are like a surrogate niece and nephew. It was the right thing at the right time.

    I also recently started volunteering at an art center nearby as a gallery assistant -- greeting visitors, writing up sales tickets, etc. The light at the gallery is fantastic so I can bring my own art and work on it while I tend the desk. Started this thinking that I'd volunteer more often when I retire or perhaps even rent an artist space there someday.

    Thanks for your blog -- have you on my rss feed and read regularly. Female, age 55

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    1. Mentoring children...there will be a special place in heaven for you. Being able to read well is the basic skill required to be part of society. You have performed a real service to these kids and the rest of us. And, it filled a hole in your life, too. That's what so great about volunteering: both sides benefit.

      Your second story shows a new side to volunteering: opening up an avenue for someone's self development based on the "free" work being done.

      Thank you for your support and today's comment...very helpful to our overall discussion.

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  4. Hi Bob,

    I'm a certified California State Park volunteer. The volunteering opportunities are vast - everything from checking people in at outdoor community events, to park clean up, to trail maintenance, to being a docent at one of the state's historical sites, to leading wilderness hikes.

    I'm interested in becoming a hike leader at some point in the future, which will require taking a couple of wilderness science courses at a nearby junior college, but I'm not ready to commit to the time necessary to complete the coursework at this point. Once our road travel wunderlust gets satisfied over the next few years, this is something I'd then be interested in pursuing.

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    1. How does one become a "certified" park volunteer? Is that required before you can help out in the state parks?

      Knowing your energy level and love of the outdoors, becoming a hike leader at some point doesn't surprise me in the least. It would be a perfect matching of your talents to a need. Good luck!

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  5. I'm currently President & Membership Chair of our Friends of the Library group and that involves board meetings, sorting out donated books and our book sales. Soon to come will be grant writing and other fundraising efforts. I also volunteer at the annual Library Foundation fundraiser. I'm starting next week as an Outdoor Kitchen Assistant at our Botanical Garden and hope to enjoy that. I'm still working part time and am slowly adding volunteer work as the retirees I know who are happiest have a regular schedule of activities (also known as structure LOL) each week that includes volunteering as well as exercise, continuing education, etc. I think the key is to find the volunteer opportunity that not only fits your interest but that also fills the gap re what you miss about working be it using your skills/knowledge, being around interesting people, or whatever.

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    1. You have identified the most important part in beginning volunteer involvement: identifying something that you like that uses your skills and interests. Spending time with something must be beneficial to both the volunteer and the recipient or the process isn't effective. Volunteering can bring a real sense of structure and purpose to life.

      My wife and I are members of the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix...a truly world class organization. I hope you'll enjoy your work at your gardens.

      As I've noted before, coming from a family of librarians, I tip my hat to anyone who works to improve this vital community resource...especially someone involved in fund raising and all the paperwork. That would be you, Juhli.

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  6. I volunteer with Medical Bridges. Here is a link to the website:
    http://www.medicalbridges.org/ Medical Bridges ® recovers medical surplus that would otherwise be discarded and redistributes it to hospitals, clinics and healthcare providers in less fortunate countries.
    I am a retired hospital pharmacist so this is a natural fit for me. We have a small group from our church that go together regularly; we have a lots of good camaraderie while sorting and packing medical supplies.

    When my husband retires, we have thought about delivering for Meals on Wheels. I could drive and he could take the food to the door. (I can't walk but I can drive.)

    What a good topic!!

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    1. Medical Bridges...what a fabulous idea. I have never heard of this organization before and am so happy you have mentioned it and given us a web site.

      Betty and I worked for Meals on Wheels for a few years and found it very fulfilling. The folks who receive the meals are so grateful for both the food and the visit. For many, it is their only human contact all week.

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  7. I work with struggling readers at three different schools- 1 child at a time. I spend six intensive weeks per child- daily- until they gain confidence and then cut them loose.
    I am part of Pilot club and do something monthly with them. Last, I am available to mom, family and close friends when they need those extra hands. I'll be with a friend for a bit while she recovers from back surgery next month.
    I plan on becoming a docent at a Smithsonian when and if I ever talk my husband into that second home near our daughter:).
    Our generation does a ton- they just don't join the traditional organization.. Without those organizations it is more difficult to track their contributions. I also find that many organizations are uncomfortable with volunteers. Are you taking someone's "real job"? Are you looking to get paid? They just don't get volunteer.

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    1. Janette, you have found tremendous ways to give back. Reading help and support for those in need is what living a satisfying life is all about.

      Your point about volunteers echos what Cindy P. noted above. Because they are not as easily categorized and controlled as an employee, volunteers are a "problem" for some organizations that desperately need the help. With government cutbacks, these groups had better realize the amazing resources we can bring to the table.

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  8. I've volunteered for a couple of causes -- the cancer society, our local library -- but my problem is that while it made me feel good to contribute to the cause, and the people involved were very nice, I didn't really like the actual work I was doing. So I'm still in search of my volunteer niche.

    My lovely B is different. She volunteers through her church, does many different things, helps a lot of people, never complains about the work, and finds a lot of satisfaction doing it all. Wish I was more like her.

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    1. Tom, you must find the right "fit" to make it all work and then things will come together like they have for your wife. I guess what you need to do is look at what you do enjoy and what your skill set is and then find someone or something that would benefit. It may not be a formal or "normal" volunteer opportunity. You may end up making your own niche.

      I read your blog so I know you could teach writing to aspiring authors who can't afford to take classes, or help a volunteer organization build a blog or web site. That is the great thing about volunteering: someone, somewhere needs what you have in abundance.

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  9. Bob, this is a great post idea! After 20 months of retirement, I am definitely ready for volunteering but I am having a difficult time locating the right niche. I want something where I am REALLY needed--not one of those volunteer opportunities with too many volunteers. (Sounds unlikely but I have actually volunteered to help in a couple of situations but when I showed up, there were really twice as many people there as really needed and I felt useless. Am I the only one this has happened to?) I am eager to see some ideas from the readers!

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    1. The suggestion I just posted for Sightings above may fit your situation, too. You may be better off making your own volunteer opportunity based on what makes Don tick. Certainly, it sounds as though you need to find a less traveled path. Some organizations bring out too many people to use effectively while others are desperate for your time.

      Keep searching. There are several interesting ideas contributed so far by readers. Any of those spark an interest?

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  10. I want to be a Scoutmaster!!!! Since I'ver always had Saturday hours, I could never commit to my local troop. I did run a YMCA TRIBES program for 2 years. I've been backpacking for 48 years and I'm an avid climber (Rainier, Shasta, Whitney, Hood to name a few). Since I'll be moving to a new area, I will get letters from my local friends who have been scoutmasters, and folks at the YMCA. People might be a little wary of an unknown older male who wants to work with boys.
    I remember my own scout leaders with tremendous respect and admiration. I hope I can do as well!
    Dr.Keith

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    1. That is an excellent goal, Dr. Keith. I know from my work in prisons how many young men were scarred for life by an absent or abusive dad. A strong, loving, male model for boys is vitally important to their development.

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  11. I volunteer at a local no-kill animal shelter one day a week, working with cats--cleaning cages, feeding, petting, and giving all the critters individual attention. Like most of the volunteers, I've already adopted a cat from them, and recently adopted one of the dogs.

    I have some mobility problems which prevent me from doing much that's very active, but I belong to a quilt guild that makes quilts and gives them to local hospitals, homeless shelters, hospices, and similar places. I've been a quilter for decades, so this fits right in with my favorite hobby, and gives me a reason to make more quilts. I also crochet baby afghans for a group to which my sister belongs, which donates them to a homeless shelter in her area. I'm one of those people who can't just sit and do nothing, so I use the time I'm watching TV to crochet.

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    1. These are perfect examples of the fact that anyone, regardless of any limitations, can do something to help others. Taking something you are good at and enjoy and using it to benefit others = volunteering at its best.

      Thanks for what you do, TOher Jean!

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  12. I also volunteer at the botanical garden. We planted flowers that will be used to make things the garden can sell to raise money-such as,pictures,sachets,bookmarks. I enjoy the work and the company. I don't know how to make a picture yet with dried flowers-hopefully I'll learn this in the future.

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    1. Now that sounds like fun. If you can take a photo sometime of what you are helping make at the gardens e-mail it to me and I'll post it here to show others what is possible.

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  13. Your question is interesting because it asks readers to share their "good works." I used to do volunteer work very low key and under the radar because I didn't want to put myself in the spotlight. Much of what I gave to charity, for example, I gave anonymously. What I realized, though, is that I was not modeling for others, and especially for my kids(!), how we can weave volunteer work and charitable giving into our lives as a basic value for how we want to live.

    What you have done here is really brilliant because you have created a space for people to share ideas about volunteering and giving without getting egos involved. Really a lovely idea. For example, I have always admired and looked forward to your posts about your prison ministry. Your presentation of your ministry is one of service and humility. It is truly inspiring.

    And what I think when I read the comments is how varied and creative our ways of giving are. Many readers who come to this post will be inspired to think about how they give of their time and resources in new ways.

    I volunteer at my church and for Edwards Center, an organization that serves adults with developmental disabilities. In addition to time, I also have pledged whatever funds I generate through my 10 Steps program to Edwards Center. So, for example, when my book comes out in October, all proceeds will go to Edwards Center. When someone pays me to speak, those proceeds, too. It's great for me because it allows me to use something I already enjoy doing to benefit an organization I support.

    Sharing our stories helps others see opportunities, too. For example, I was speaking with a consultant a few months ago about my book. When I explained my pledge to Edwards Center, she loved the idea and promptly donated her consulting fee for that day.

    Well, you can see that this post and the comments got me fired up today! Great idea and I will certainly pass on the post to others hoping they will join the discussion!

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    1. Your praise and support are so valuable and humbling. Thank you. I welcome anyone new with open arms!

      Like you I have been impressed with the breadth of ways people can serve. There are options I never heard of that sound tremendous.

      What I think makes sense is sometime in the next week or so I will take all the ideas suggested and put together another post that simply lists them. I know pages of comments may be more than some folks care to read through..it just takes too much time, but they might benefit from the ideas. So, if I can simplify the passing on of the information that might work out well.

      Here is a perfect example: www.edwardscenter.org is the web site of the place you mentioned. If there are other readers in the Portland area who would like to support what the Edwards Center does, Galen has just made us all aware.

      Have a great weekend.

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    2. Thank you, Bob, for the link to Edwards Center! That was so generous and gracious. As you probably know, my two autistic sons live in one of their group homes, and work at one of their work sites. So my support of them is personal as well as charitable. Over 90% of all donations go straight to direct care. If anyone is in the area and would like to get to know the organization better, just get in touch with me!

      Your idea of a post listing everyone's ideas is yet another brilliant idea on your part! I put the link to this post on my FB and fan pages. Hopefully some new folks will join the discussion.

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  14. I would say that when it comes to volunteering one should be driven by issues that are important, as well as by interests and skills. Sometimes those two will not be a fit. Sometimes you may think an issue is important and need to train and learn and start from scratch. Also, dont be afraid to think outside the box. YOu can read to children in school, and be a scoutmaster whether you have grandchildren or not. In my case my in person volunteering is done primarily at a low income afterschool and summer camp program in a high risk area of my city (high risk in terms of outcome of school). I also manage the inreach program at my church and act as a liason to other organizations.

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    1. Some more excellent examples, Barb, of what people can do to help. Summertime is coming up fast...camp programs or church vacation Bible schools are always looking for helpers.

      I certainly agree in stepping outside your comfort zone to find something or I never would have even considered being involved in prison ministry.

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  15. Bob,

    My volunteer work is a little different from your other posters, so I think it would make a good addition to your list. From January to April 15 each year I volunteer with the AARP Tax Aide program (www.aarp.org/money/taxes/aarp_taxaide), preparing tax returns for free. We don't limit our service only to the elderly or low income, although that is the group we most serve. I'm also the education lead for the new volunteers.

    I decided to do this after working as a paid tax preparer for a few years. I enjoyed the tax work, but not the moment when I handed the client the bill. I got another job, and switched to volunteering at tax time.

    Years ago I volunteered reading college level textbooks to tape for blind students. I felt like I was being useful, but I realized I would enjoy it more if I could meet the people I was helping.

    The drawback to doing tax work is that I give up every Saturday for three and a half months, but it's only on the sunny days that I really mind.

    I also get a matching contribution from my employer for my time, and the money the program has received because of the time I spend volunteering has bought new laptops for volunteers that don't have their own. This is an unusual program that is really helping out the organizations in my community.

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    1. That is tremendous, CB. I am aware of the various tax aid programs sponsored by AARP and others, but the idea of a matching contribution used to buy laptops takes that to a whole new level. What a great idea. Someone is really using their noggin!

      Your understanding of what you did like (the actual work) and did not like (presenting a bill) was important in your ability to find some way to use your talents in a way that satisfied you and helped others.

      This will definitely go on the list of ways to volunteer in the next post. Thanks, CB.

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  16. The third time was the charm for me. First I took a class on teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). I realized I don't want to teach. Tutor maybe, but not teach. Then I tried Habitat for Humanity. I participated in four days of builds in my area, then four days on a Road Scholar build in Lafayette, Louisiana. I found I don't have the stamina to work all day - I want to take a nap in the car after lunch (and have!). Plus, I'm afraid of heights, which rules out roofs and scaffolds.

    Then I took a class in basic mediation. I knew after the first day I'd found my spot. I'm now working to become a certified mediator; it's 140 hours of classes and observation and practice, plus a couple of tests. It will take me about 18 months to complete my certification, and then I'll be able to volunteer at the dispute resolution centers in my state (Washington). I use what I'm learning in most other areas of my life. I'm a lifelong learner, so this new endeavor is fun. I'm glad I found it!

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    1. 18 months is quite a commitment. Good for you. I've used a professional mediator once in dealing with a neighbor's barking dog problem. It didn't solve the issue, but the mediator was calm and got us to move to at least a proposed settlement.

      Your "third time is a charm" is a good real life reminder that finding the right fit may take awhile. But, eventually things will work out.

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  17. I help imprint Braille Bibles one morning a week. It is something that touches my heart as I love to share my faith and I cannot imagine not having my sight. I also, sporadically, help staff a thrift shop that our area churches have together to support our area parochial high school. I believe in this as I think that it is important for kids to be trained up in the way you believe. I also work the polls at election time--I feel it is my civic duty. You receive a small stipend but it may as well be volunteer as it involves many hours and very little reimbursement. Also, I enjoy stepping up when the church has a need for help at dinners, etc. This is a time in my life when I can finally say "yes" as when I was working I would so often want to help but had to say "no" because of work. When I volunteer, I am with other people and that is a fringe benefit for me and I also derive a great deal of personal satisfaction from it.

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    1. "This is the time in my life when I can finally say yes." That is what so many of us believe. Regardless of how things have gone we remain blessed compared to so many others.

      You have a great list of ways to give back. Imprinting Braille Bible is a new one for me but I love your motivation. Thanks so much for contributing.

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  18. Since it is hot and humid in Florida in the summer I try to have some indoor activities planned that will pass the time enjoyably and benefit someone in the process. Last summer I made about two dozen "little dresses" and donated them to a local children's charity. Most of them were made from left-over crafting fabric or pieces that friends and family donated when they heard what I was doing. I also directly gave some of them away at Christmas which was personally rewarding.

    Thanks for your comments on the post I recently made on my blog regarding our involvement with Habitat for Humanity. We fully support their mission and participate year round painting, planting, etc. Our local chapter is very organized and they make it easy to choose a short term commitment that suites our skills and energy level from their website. I recently joined their "Women Build" committee and will be more involved this next year with both building and fund raising.

    It is encouraging to see how involved your readers are - and in such a variety of ways.

    Best wishes.

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    1. There was an earlier comment from from a reader who didn't feel she could help build houses because of physical limitations. Maybe her local chapter of Habitat for Humanity has something similar to your "Women Build" committee. I imagine there are plenty of ways to get involved with such a great organization even if you don't know which end of the hammer hits the nail.

      Florida and Arizona share the same situation: look for indoor activities. It is already 100 degrees here...no time to be outside if you can help it.

      That reminds me: In the Phoenix area we have several organizations that hand out bottles of water to the homeless. Every year a few die from lack of shade and water. This distribution saves lives.

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  19. These are inspirational posts. My wife and I have been fortunate to be involved in church, school, and community activities during our 30 years of marriage. It is a truth that by giving we receive. One very sacred experience was taking Communion each week to my sick friend and his wife during his final illness. The Grace that they displayed during his journey to Heaven remains with me today.

    Happy Mother's Day to all mothers.

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    1. Thank you, Rick, for that very special memory of sharing your love and concern.

      It is now Sunday morning so I will "officially" echo your Mother's Day greeting, especially for my wife, Betty, mom to my two beautiful daughters.

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  20. Regarding these comments:

    Governments claim they want more citizen involvement, but that is just a slogan. Many of them view volunteers as an irritant and too much trouble to deal with. Sad.

    Your point about volunteers echos what Cindy P. noted above. Because they are not as easily categorized and controlled as an employee, volunteers are a "problem" for some organizations that desperately need the help. With government cutbacks, these groups had better realize the amazing resources we can bring to the table.

    ... There is another side to the story. Volunteers need training and are often needed for tasks that some people think "beneath them". Some volunteers start out in good faith, but after awhile, don't want to keep to a schedule and/or decide they should be doing something more worthy of them. When staffs are stretched as they are now, time for training is precious and if it winds up being wasted on someone who doesn't stay, people get very wary. Yes, there are amazing resources to bring to the table, but if there is no consistency or personal accountability, it's a waste of time. The person who made the comment about finding a niche is correct. That's what makes the difference.

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    1. You make a good point, though I'm not sure how someone volunteers knowing that everything will work out. I'd hate to discourage someone who wants to help but is afraid of wasting the trainer's time.

      So, I guess the best bet is do some research ahead of time to increase the odds there will be a good match.

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    2. It warms my heart to read the above posts! Recently I have started a search for volunteer work I can commit to long-term; it is like searching for a career! I have done quite a bit of volunteering in my life, but I agree with you that at this age (62) it is wise to approach it thoughtfully and try to dovetail with your own passions and the abilities you want to use or develop. After a lifetime of teaching I am branching out into naturalist work and environmental education. I volunteer with an all-volunteer organization dedicated to educating people about the local environment and issues of sustainability and training them for leadership, I am a frog docent for our water district to educate hikers about protecting an endangered local frog species, I volunteer with a local Audubon Sanctuary to take nature education into local schools with "underserved" Hispanic populations, and may also become a nature guide for a local wildlife organization. I also join my local neighborhood in removing invasive weeds, establishing native plants, protecting our local wildlife and trying to save a meadow. Ever since awakening to how we are damaging our planet, my guiding mantra has been Buckminster Fuller's "If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem".

      That said, I am finding myself a little overwhelmed - enthusiastic, but biting off more than I can chew, and I miss having more quiet days to just enjoy, or to get some of my home tasks done.I'm now also having to plan my husband's and my beloved camping trips to fit around these commitments, which is not exactly how we wish it to be. Organizations are so happy to get enthusiastic volunteers that you can find yourself saying yes too often, and before long you may wonder what happened to your retired life! I suggest visits,trial experiences, interviews, and conversations with candid volunteers, all the while staying very non-committal while making your checklists of why this does or doesn't fit with your practical life and your heart's desires. Once you commit, you really don't want to let anyone down, so take your time.

      Now that I have jumped with both feet into nature education, I am actually turning over the idea of limiting it a little by not signing on as the nature guide and instead possibly returning to my previous animal shelter volunteering and also helping needy people - when doing those, I always left with a glow in my heart, feeling that I had really made a difference, whereas with my current volunteer work I usually feel energized and excited, but don't have that heart glow. I guess I need to have both in my experience. However, when doing the work both with the shelter animals and with needy people, I ended up feeling I was never doing enough given the scale of the need, and began to funnel more and more of my resources towards it - beyond what I could afford - while feeling sorrow about their lives, and I began to think that I don't have the right temperament for that emotionally challenging work. So at the moment I am weighing these options carefully and looking for solutions I may not have discovered yet. Thank you for asking this wonderful question and getting this thoughtful process started. Anne in Ca.

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    3. Being a frog docent...that is a new one for my list! I don't know much about the Audubon Society except for it's various birding books. I'll have to learn a bit more.

      You are absolutely correct: the problem of over-volunteering is very real. It is something I have to guard against in my prison ministry. It is too easy to agree to take on extra commitments and end up stretched too thin. I'd also like to support them with more money than I have available for that purpose.

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  21. This has been a great post. I've been thinking about what I'll do when I'm retired in 7 years. The person who posted that they're an art gallery assistant caught my eye. I wonder if you need a background in art to voluteer for that. Also becoming a docent intrigues me too.

    It would be interesting to know how many of your readers volunteered when they were younger (teens, twenties), and now have decided to give back later in life.

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    1. Some good questions! I would guess an art gallery assistant would have to be somewhat familiar with the type of art being displayed, unless the volunteer position is strictly helping with mounting the art and paperwork. But, that would be good if someone gave us some more feedback.

      I was a docent (tour guide) for 9 years at the Frank Lloyd Wright home in Scottsdale (Taliesin West). It was fascinating and enjoyable work and thrust me into a several-year study of his life. What an interesting character.

      I would like to know, also, whether volunteering is a lifelong habit, or one that many folks can't begin until later in life due to work and family constraints.

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  22. I have volunteered for several organizations during my 'working' years and have learned from each. I delivered Meals on Wheels, which I believe someone else mentioned. That was very rewarding because the people are very happy to see you, yet depressing because sometimes you are their only company. I had to quit because their location was not convenient. I worked with Habitat for Humanity for awhile on a paint crew. That was fun, but again, the location was not convenient. I definitely will investigate this once my time is my own. I also read to elementary students once a week for about a year.

    What I have done before and am doing again now is working with Reading and Radio Resource in Dallas. It is a nonprofit organization that 'reads for those who can't.' I record books to tape (CD and MP3 player format now, but it used to be cassette tapes). It's really fun because I have done a variety of different books. I love to read so it's rewarding to help those who can't see to be able to 'read' books too. They also have a radio station that now has 24 hour programming, all taped by volunteers, and has everything from newspaper articles to books to advice shows. There are opportunities within the organization for non-readers as well, so it offers something for everyone.

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    1. There is a similar radio service in the Phoenix area. Special receivers are used by clients who have access to all sorts of programming, from the daily newspaper being read, to classified, even the Sunday comics, and magazines. It is run in conjunction with Arizona State University and is a tremendous boon to those who are visually impaired.

      You have had a very active volunteer life. While everything didn't "fit" you continue to help. Good for you and thanks for sharing your experiences.

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  23. I volunteered in Israel after my retirement. We air lifted immigrants from Ethiopia and the Former Soviet Union and helped them to start their new lives. It was an incredibly rewarding experience, especially as it involved travel. Whenever opportunities like this arise it's always best to take a leap. Retirement is a time for risk and experiment!

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    1. That is a real "outside the box" volunteer experience, Larry. I agree completely that retirement is a time to experiment...and a time to give back.

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