Senior Life: Volunteer groups for retirees

April is National Volunteer Month. I do not know when this designation began, but I did read that Benjamin Franklin initiated the first volunteer fire department in Philadelphia. I remember that John F. Kennedy asked us to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

I also recall that George Bush Sr. and his wife, Barbara, referred to volunteerism as a “thousand points of light.” Volunteerism has been a part of our life here in our country since almost the beginning of our existence.

And now, most volunteers are retirees (senior citizens). People who want to stay involved in their communities, who want to make new friends, who want to just get out of the house, have someplace purposeful to go. If you stop to think about it, here in Portage County our lives would be pretty limited without the folks who volunteer to run our neighborhood food cupboards, who stand on corners and ring a bell at Christmas time, who help our girls sell cookies each spring, who push a wheelchair at the University Hospitals Portage Medical Center, who take their time to sit on the board of Family and Community Services, or the Red Cross and a hundred other places where individuals serve others, without any thought of being paid monetarily.

This year, the national theme for Volunteer Month is “Celebrate Service.” Putting the spotlight on “inspiring figures whose invaluable acts of kindness through volunteering are bettering the community and our world in general.” Some critics would say that “true altruism is a myth, that it doesn’t exist and that nobody is capable of doing anything unless they are motivated by their own self-interest in the end.” In a way these critics are not all wrong, because volunteers do get something in return for donating their time to help someone.

Volunteering does connect you to others (helps limit your own loneliness); is good for your mind and body (it reduces stress); if you are still employed, it can teach you new skills which could advance your career (meeting new people means making new contacts); and, most importantly to the volunteer, it can bring fun and fulfillment to our lives (it can combat depression and gives a new sense of purpose).

Take a moment this month (and every month) to thank those around you who volunteer in some way to make your life better. Thank you, volunteer, for wheeling me out of the hospital when I was discharged; thank you for reading to my grandson when he was struggling in first grade; thank you for helping me carry my groceries in when it was raining; thank you for sitting on the United Way board and making decisions that will help my neighbors get the help they need; thank you for working at the Center of Hope and helping ensure that our neighbors will have the extra food they need this month. To all of the hundreds of volunteers in our community … Thank you for all you do.

If you are not currently a volunteer, maybe you want to find something to fill that void now that you are retired. Volunteering someplace can get you out of your home, teach you something new, or help you make new friends, and it especially can help you feel good about yourself.

For more information about where to go to volunteer and find out who needs your help and friendship, contact Crystal Shanley at RSVP at (330) 297-7027, ext. 322; or contact Stephanie Montgomery, volunteer coordinator, at the UH Portage Medical Center at (330) 297-0811.

One of the more active volunteer groups in our community is the UH Portage Medical Center Auxiliary. Its mission is to help provide additional support to the various needs of the staff and departments. Each month, various fundraising events are held to enable the Auxiliary to meet its financial commitments to the medical center.

One of its ongoing projects is the hospital’s gift shop, The Chestnut Tree. For three days in April, The Chestnut Tree is having a Spring Cleaning Sale.

You wouldn’t believe all the great items that have been “stashed” in a storeroom over the years: decorative bird cages, mannequins, baskets (all sizes), display racks, salt and pepper shakers, small display tables, and on and on. The intent of the sale is to clean out the storage area for The Chestnut Tree, so nothing stays … all items priced to go.

The sale will be held at University Hospitals Portage Medical Center, 6847 N. Chestnut St., Ravenna, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 23, 24 and 25. Follow the signs or ask a volunteer for directions. Help the Auxiliary and The Chestnut Tree clean house this spring. The Chestnut Tree is not closing, just cleaning out “closets” like we all do in the spring.

Contact Sally Kelly with your senior news at (330) 687-9501 or [email protected].

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