Ready to Volunteer?

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Retirement is the perfect time to give back and volunteer. Area offers abundance of options

Although you may be plenty busy now with work, plan now to volunteer during retirement.

“A lot of the folks who are retiring are looking for something meaningful to do with their life,” said Brenda J. McCutcheon, vice president of mission, director of the therapeutic recreation department at Loretto, who also oversees volunteers. “For us, volunteerism is so wide-ranging. We’ve had volunteers who come in and just visit or play a hand of cards with residents. There are people who don’t have a lot of family or visitors.”

She added that other volunteers offer a Bible study, work in the gift shop, transport residents or take residents on a walk.

“The opportunities are endless,” McCutcheon said. “I am always in awe of the volunteers’ generosity of time. What is most fun for me is that they bring something different. I have a volunteer who comes every Friday with her dog. They go to the floor and visit. Some residents buy dog bones, so they have something to give her. It’s all life-giving. It’s amazing to watch the residents make new friends.”

Volunteers can also donate time off-site, such as knitting lap blankets or participating in a card drive during the holidays. Some drop off gifts for residents who do not have family members to see them. Consumable gifts such as puzzle books, coloring books, and tissues packets are favorites among Loretto residents, but it’s helpful to check with a facility before dropping off items.

Volunteers can work with any age group.

“One thing we’re always looking for is tutors,” said Sandy Roberts, assistant to the director at Upstate Oasis in Syracuse. “They’re actually reading teachers for K-third grades. We have a lot of seniors doing that. Syracuse is No. 1 in the nation for childhood poverty. Those children need extra help.

“We also need desk volunteers to greet people as they come in and check them off the roster and clean the whiteboards after class. A cheerful person greeting members as they come in is great to have. We also have class coordinator, good for people who ware computer savvy to take attendance online and introduce the instructor. There’s also a chat room on Zoom for questions for the instructor.”

Oasis (https://upstate.oasisnet.org) seeks volunteers experienced in a variety of other pursuits to lead enrichment classes targeting retirees. For example, if you have been teaching high school history classes, you could segue into teaching short-term courses on your favorite period of history. Or if you have mastered a language, pottery making, photography or any other interesting skill, you may be a good candidate to lead a class in it.

The humanitarian efforts of American Red Cross (www.redcross.org) needs help in its local chapters, including Syracuse. Or you could volunteer to travel to a stricken area and help with their emergency relief efforts.

Seasonal opportunities include Toys for Tots (http://fulton-ny.toysfortots.org or http://syracuse-ny.toysfortots.org/local-coordinator-sites/lco-sites/default.aspx) which collects gifts during the early holiday season for children of families in need. Volunteering seasonally can help you try out an organization and it limits your participation to a certain time of year if you would like to keep busier then or if you have other obligations during other parts of the year.

If you want to help in the community, check the opportunities at Volunteer CNY (www.volunteercny.org) where you find a list of links to CNY-based organizations that could use a hand.

Sites like www.volunteermatch.org can also help you find local ways to volunteer, through local or national organizations. You can search by location, keyword and cause to find a good fit. At  www.justserve.org, you can search by location or select remote work.

Contact your place of worship. Many of these need assistance in community outreach programs or in their own operation, such as in building maintenance and upkeep and office administration. The same is true of many hospitals, animal shelters and fraternal organizations like Elks, Kiwanis and Lions clubs. Find where your interests and their needs intersect so the experience is helpful and enjoyable for you and the organization.

You could also offer help to friends and family in need. Could your granddaughter use a break from watching her toddler? Would your elderly neighbor appreciate a few minor home repairs completed? Could you take your teenage granddaughter to her orthodontic appointments, so your children won’t need to take time off from work? Making a no-strings-attached offer may help you find ways you can give back to those you care about and provide you with the satisfaction of knowing you have made a positive difference in someone’s life.

Start with a short-term commitment with limited hours to ensure a good fit and expand your volunteering efforts from there.