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Volunteerism — Giving The Gift Of Self

So, now what do you do?
The children are grown and on their own. You're either retired or very close to being so. Financially, things are comfortable. Fishing is fun; golf is okay. But still...

Have you considered offering your time and your talents to a worthy cause?
If so, you're not alone. Statistics show that more than 15 million older Americans give of themselves and their time to help others. And those are just the official numbers. The real total may be many times that.("Volunteer Opportunities," Administration on Aging (2/2/04) www.aoa.gov/eldfam/Volunteer_Opps/Volunteer_Opps.asp.)

You have a lot to offer. It starts with the wealth of experience you've accumulated over a lifetime. This alone is a much–valued asset in high demand with the thousands of organizations across the country, the world or in your own back yard. Then add your maturity and willingness to work. You'll have no trouble finding an organization in search of what you have to offer.

A few things you should think about before you make a commitment:

  • Understand why you are volunteering. Is it to fill empty time? To meet people and remain socially active? To try new experiences? To make use of the skills you've acquired over your lifetime? To help with a favorite cause? Your answers will help determine what you do and how involved you become.
  • Pick a cause you care about...or at least in which you are interested.
  • Don't take on more than you can handle in terms of time, physical demands or emotional commitment. For instance, if you want to contribute several hours a week in a support position, don't let yourself get roped into a full–time job with long hours and tons of responsibilities.

Where do you begin?
That's often the biggest question. You may be surprised to discover that you have so many choices you're not sure which ones to pursue.

Local organizations are always hungry for willing volunteers. Perhaps you would enjoy tutoring reading or math at a local school; shelving books at the library; contributing your voice to the church choir; running the chains or keeping score for the youth football league; helping to brighten the day for patients at the hospital. Pick up the phone and call around. You'll quickly find an organization eager for your services.

Many national charities and service groups also rely on local volunteers. Start thumbing through the phone book.

Hesitant?
Don't be. Your services are needed. Plus, you need not make a major commitment. You can toe–dip to find out how much you like your volunteer position. You have nothing to lose. And, as most volunteers will tell you, they get back so much more than they give in personal satisfaction and friendship.

How To Find Out More
Administration on Aging is a federal agency offering a wealth of volunteer opportunities coast to coast. For information, call (202) 619–0724 or go online to www.aoa.gov This link will open an external site in a new browser. .

Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America needs volunteers to work with children on a one- on– one basis. For information, check your local phone directory, call the national headquarters at (215) 567–7000 or go online to www.bbbsa.org This link will open an external site in a new browser. .

Peace Corps needs volunteers of all ages for overseas assignments. (You're not too old. President Carter's mother, Lillian, joined in her 60s.) Call (800) 424–8580 or go online to www.peacecorps.gov This link will open an external site in a new browser. .

Senior Corps helps people 55 or older find family service opportunities. Call (800) 424–8867 or go online to www.seniorcorps.org This link will open an external site in a new browser. .

Salvation Army enlists volunteers to ring Christmas bells, feed the homeless and more. Call (202) 234–7291 or go online to www.salvationarmyusa.org This link will open an external site in a new browser. .

SERVEnet serves as an online placement center for individuals seeking volunteer opportunities in their areas. Go online to www.servenet.org This link will open an external site in a new browser. .

Service Core of Retired Executives (SCORE) boasts more than 13,000 former executives who advise small businesses. Call (800) 634–0245 or go online to www.score.org This link will open an external site in a new browser. .

VolunteerMatch is an online clearinghouse bringing together volunteers and organizations. Go online to www.volunteermatch.org This link will open an external site in a new browser.  or call (415) 241–6868.

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Volunteerism — Giving The Gift Of Self

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