November 9, 2015

Uniting With a New Passion

A few months ago I wrote about The Stigma of Being Poor and asked about our responsibility to change our world for the better. In that post I mentioned my personal search for a new way to become involved beyond just writing about our society's problems. I want to actively do something about them.

After several years of personal counseling through the Stephen Ministry program, and five years deeply involved in prison ministry, I have taken a two year break. I needed a breather and the time to decide where my particular talents (or, is that peculiar talents?) might lead me.

I have found the answer. The local United Way organization has invited me to be a member of a steering committee for a new volunteer initiative that focuses on retirees in the Phoenix metro area. With life skills and experiences, a desire to give back to the community, and the time to do so, many of these folks are simply looking for information and the opportunity to help.


The Valley of the Sun United Way has been serving community needs in the Phoenix area for 90 years. Within the past four years it has made a major adjustment to its approach. 

 Previously, VSUW (Valley of The Sun United Way) collected donations from tens of thousands of individuals and hundreds of businesses. That money was then distributed to appropriate agencies that would apply the funds to the immediate needs in the community.

After some serious research and thinking about their overall role, the VSUW moved to a model where the donated money becomes the funding for programs with the direct involvement of the United Way team and cooperating businesses, agencies, and volunteers. In this way, problems such as homelessness and hunger, increasing the financial stability of families and individuals, and finding ways to help children and youth succeed in life can be dealt with in a more comprehensive and and long-term manner.

82,000 households in Maricopa County (Phoenix's county) experience chronic hunger. One in five Arizonans lives in poverty. Tens of thousands of kids come to local schools hungry each morning. With problems this extensive a concerted effort to look for solutions must be made.

Feeding someone who is hungry or finding a family of four clean beds for the evening are vital. Helping the individuals and families find solutions to these problems to get them off the same track is even more important. The new model that the VSUW is now following, allows for both short and long term commitments to finding solutions. Other United Way organizations around the country are looking at the success of the Phoenix model and making adjustments that allow them to better serve their own communities.

I am excited and energized over the chance to become part of an organization that is doing so much good for my hometown, and has the foresight to evolve its approach to the problems that affect so many. After attending the first steering committee meeting last month I have become involved in helping the new program develop promotional materials. I am helping to secure a presentation at a major retirement community in the Valley where I hope many of the residents find new outlets for their desire to serve. At some point I have been told I will become part of a speakers' bureau, to help spread the word about Retire United.

Over the next several months I will have some additional posts about this new chapter in my volunteer life. If you live in the greater Phoenix area, I urge you to check out the Retire United group. For everyone else, I urge you to always look for ways to serve others and your community that satisfies and nourishes you. 

14 comments:

  1. This sounds like an amazing opportunity, Bob. There are many needs in our world, but when we are open to helping others, we are able to meet many of those pressing needs. Who knows what all of us might accomplish in our golden years? One thing for sure, when you combine years of wisdom, experience, skills, and passion, anything is possible. Hoping and praying that your endeavors to help others will flourish.

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    1. Thanks, Pam. I am looking forward to where this opening takes me.

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  2. Aha! Another new beginning! Good for you.

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  3. I like the approach of the Phoenix United Way, Bob. Quite frankly, I stopped giving to the United Way many years ago (favoring the Rescue Missions and Food Banks instead) after I found out the Syracuse UW was giving money to black organizations that preached hatred of Caucasians. When I called UW they said they would make sure my money would not go to those groups. Please. Your UW's approach is much better, and easier for you to see the effectiveness of it. Good luck.

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    1. Having more control over how the money is spent and planning for long term solutions instead of a quick patchjob seems to make more sense.,

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  4. One out of five ... wow, that's a lot! Good for you for helping out, and for trying to do it in a more direct and effective way.

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    1. Some of the statistics that United Way has uncovered are shocking. In a place known for its high end resorts and golf courses and the winter playground of so many, way too many of the state's residents lives a life of grinding poverty. Once you are outside the metro areas of Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff, and Yuma, things get rough rather quickly.

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  5. This sounds like a perfect meeting of skills and needs. Good luck with the new initiative. -Jean

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    1. I am anxious to see where this takes me. Thanks, Jean.

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  6. Bob, since discovering your blog a few months ago, I have been following it with great interest. I am still working, and my job is challenging with very long work hours (typically 10-11 hours a day). I am beginning to think seriously about retirement. I recently have reached my financial target for retirement, and I have a long list of interests and personal goals that I have been deferring until retirement because I have so little time to work on them now. My husband has been retired for ten years, and I would like to be able to spend more time with him. Still, it is hard to step away from this career of mine that has been so all-encompassing for the last 25 years. Your comments about volunteer work interested me. Currently, with my long work days, I have little energy left for volunteer work. It is something I would like to have more time for, and I have already begun to think of possible volunteer contributions that I can make once I retire.

    Jude

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    1. How has your husband handled a decade of retirement? Had it been a positive experience for him? Do you envy him the freedom to craft your day your way?

      It is a mistake to start retirement until you are really ready, and that doesn't mean just financially. Mentally, you have to be ready to divorce yourself from something that has helped define you for the last 25 years. You have to be prepared for a temporary blow to your self identity, something that is probably centered around your career.

      But, the fact that you have interests and personal goals you want to tackle means you have a strong foundation once you do retire.

      Best of luck.

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  7. That sounds like a wonderful area to work in. It would seem to be one of those areas that by working with others you can leverage your skills to make a much larger difference in the world. As I go along, I notice that I am looking for more opportunities like that. There truly is NOT enough time for me to do all the volunteer work I would like to do.

    As I am dealing with the consequences of yet again saying YES to way too many projects (all of which are valuable in and of themselves) I realize that if I can leverage my time more effectively I can help more folks (& take better care of me, which truly IS my primary job, even though I often forget that little factoid.)

    Thanks again!

    pam.

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    1. What will be important to me is if I can insure that this role will translate into something more active and involved than just a monthly committee meeting. While the meetings are important, I think I will require at least some "hands-on" component.

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