The Infinite Possibilities of Volunteering: Tell Us About Your Experiences

Category: Work and Volunteering

August 23, 2016 — One of the often overlooked challenges of retirement is how you will stay busy and engaged over time. You might think that you’ll be happy just by kicking back and relaxing, but that is not generally how humans are built. In that regard we are a lot like working dogs, happiest when we have a job or activity that keeps our minds and bodies busy.

Volunteering is an obvious and rewarding way to keep a focus in retirement. There are so many possibilities: mentoring children, helping a small business on a project, assisting at the library or hospital, trading work for free space at a national park, helping a local volunteer group or community association, or even going into the Peace Corps. This article will explore different types of volunteer jobs along with tips and strategies on finding a satisfying one. We hope at the end that you will share what you do or hope to do as a volunteer, so others can get ideas and share experiences.

Barbara Traynor, Author of Second Career Volunteer, with friends

Where to Start
In these days of cutbacks it is the rare non-profit or government body that couldn’t use an extra set of hands. But looking for a volunteer job that suits you can be intimidating. Fortunately there are many ways to do it. One way to start is to spend a little time thinking about what you would like to do and the type of organizations you would like to help. Once you have some ideas you can contact those outfits and tell them you would like to help. Or, you can use one of the many online resources available to see the types of volunteer jobs that are available.

Consider these possibilities
Volunteering within your 55+ or active adult community
Boomers who retire to an active adult or 55+ community have a leg up for finding a volunteer job. For one, there is always a need for volunteers to help run the community, its clubs, activities, and physical plant. And for another, there is often a structure in place to help residents find interesting retirement jobs.

Nextavenue.org recently ran an article, “These Boomers Run Their Whole Town“, that highlighted the amazing range of volunteer activities at Tellico Village, a very large active adult community in Tennessee (and one of our advertisers!). The community is run by 70 volunteers who help with an amazing range of jobs, including the Volunteer Fire Department. Volunteers run the clubs, manage the finances, and provide administration. One of their most successful volunteer projects is the Friends of the Tellico Village Library, which was started in 1992 and is now part of the County library system. It delivers books to shut-ins and has a big lending library. Other Tellico volunteers tutor in local schools, the computer club repairs and donates computers, and the Tellico Community Players is theatrical group.

Most other 55+ communities have expansive volunteer programs. At Fearrington Village near Chapel Hill (NC), Fearrington Cares is a standout. They have their own building, from which the community’s volunteer organization unfolds: need a ride to an appointment, borrow a car-seat for visiting grand children, attend a class on nutrition, or change a hard to get at light bulb – no problem; call Fearrington Cares.

The Villages in Central Florida, with its hundreds of clubs and all manner of activities, also offers endless volunteer positions. The recreation department has specific web address for volunteer jobs. Or, you can go to VolunteerMatch.com where you can find other possibilities (this is a nationwide site so you can find positions in other locations as well). –

Laguna Woods Village in California also offers plenty of opportunities for volunteering. Here is where you can see those slots.

If you are thinking about choosing a particular 55+ community, go on their website or ask the sales person to find out if they volunteer options that get you excited. Likewise if retiring to a particular town or area, look up institutions that you might want to volunteer for to see what they might have available.

Types of volunteer jobs
There are almost an endless array of types of jobs where you can help out. Plenty of them are obvious, but important, like working in a hospital, hospice, school, or library. But sometimes if you have unusual interests you can parlay that into a unique volunteer job. Here are some examples of common and unusual options:

Gordon – This experienced scuba diver volunteers at an aquarium caring for fish, and planting coral in Florida. Also tutors kids one on one.

John – Rehabs donated bikes that are then sold to benefit underprivileged kids

Lyle – Delivers Meals on Wheels once a week

Lou – Helps a Catholic school and conference center with important planning.

Dorothy – Helped at library and reading tutoring in schools

Sid – Mentors disadvantaged kids who are college bound

Kathy – Helped out as a hospital volunteer and now at 2 different Chambers of Commerce

Friends in Key West – Many participate in Cooking with Love, a group that cooks many meals on Saturdays for distribution to shut-ins. Others work for the Friends of the Library – they are ushers for cultural events, book sale volunteers, computer use registration

Others volunteer in many capacities in professional and fraternal organizations – from writers groups (Sisters in Crime), to Women’s clubs to the Rotary to Lions and Exchange Clubs.

International Options
Topretirements has written several case studies about some unusual and useful international volunteer jobs:
Mary Anne Johnston volunteered with Rotary International for literacy

Don Stark

Don Stark is another scuba diver who does this in a volunteer capacity

Barbara Traynor began a second career as a volunteer and worked all over the U.S. in different capacities

Harriet and Tom Linkskey created their own international non-profit to help with literacy overseas.

Online organizations that match volunteers with jobs
Still can’t think of the kind of volunteer work you want to do? These organizations are excellent at showing you a wide range of volunteer jobs that have a real need.

AARP Experience Corps Tutors – Tutors work in a variety of different arrangements depending on teacher needs. Volunteers support the teacher and his or her literacy goals.

Catchafire.org – Helps organizations find skilled volunteers for specific projects, like writing a business plan, designing a brochure, etc.

Senior Corps enior Corps connects today’s 55+ with the people and organizations that need them most. They help them become mentors, coaches or companions to people in need, or contribute their job skills and expertise to community projects and organizations.

Points of Light Through a network of 250 volunteer action centers across the globe, it inspires, equips and mobilizes people to take action that changes the world. It hopes to put people at the center of change and connect them to their power to make a difference.

OperationHope.org – HOPE Corps is Operation HOPE’s nationwide network of volunteers, dedicated to promoting financial self-sufficiency and empowerment in the communities where it’s needed most. The site claims it is always looking for compassionate, dedicated people to serve at the vanguard of our movement for financial literacy and economic justice.

For further reading:
What Are You Going to Do When You Retire?

What are your volunteer jobs? We are fascinated with the possibilities of volunteer work – there are so many ways to help out. Please share what you do, what you like about it, and how you found it in the Comments section below. Or if you not yet retired, the types of volunteer work you hope to do. We look forward to your suggestions.




Posted by Admin on August 22nd, 2016

13 Comments »

  1. Here’s a tidbit for consideration. For the past 5 years I have been a volunteer driver in the DAV transportation network. I give 1 day a week(although they could use more) and spend the day picking up Veterans in the morning, transporting them to my local VA hospital in Salem, Virginia, and then return them to their homes. Can be an all-day affair, or over by mid afternoon. I never know. The van is based in my town of Wytheville, Va, and all expenses(gas, oil, etc) are borne by a government credit card. There are some medical hurdles such as passing a VA physical, and eyesight regs are a bit more stringent since the government vans are self-insured. But, for those in reasonable/good health, the emotional benefits are many. These are men(and women) who would not otherwise be able to keep their appointments due to lack of transportation, license, car, or any other reason. Please consider! Thank you.

    by doc stickel — August 23, 2016

  2. I volunteer 1 day per week at MOST Ministries in Ann Arbor, MI, sorting, refurbing, and re-lensing donated eyeglasses for short term mission trips overseas. Hence the name…Mission Opportunities Short Term. We also have clean water teams, human trafficking prevention education teams, construction teams, as well as sharing God’s word. Affiliated with the LCMS…Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

    by Jeff — August 24, 2016

  3. I volunteer with the Texas Baptist Men (TBM), an organization created to assist those in need throughout the world. They do everything from feeding thousands daily at disaster sites (The Red Cross gets the credit, TBM does the cooking), doing “mud-outs” after floods, water purification, drilling water wells, providing laundry and showers, and numerous other needed jobs. The best thing about it is that, despite the name, you don’t have to be Baptist, or even a man, to be a member!

    by Allen M. — August 24, 2016

  4. My wife and I are both animal lovers and moved down to coastal Carolina. We first signed up for the local sea turtle protection organization to patrol the beach in the morning, looking for nests, monitor the nest in the evenings when they are due to hatch and help support various functions they put on. Also because we love cats, we volunteer to help out at a local cat rescue and adoption facility.

    by Charles Pietras — August 24, 2016

  5. When I retired I finally had time to take my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Obie, for Therapy Dog International classes. She passed the test and we are now doing hospice visits at a local senior center and Tail Wagging Tutors at the local library–the children come in and read to the dogs. It helps children who may be having trouble reading–it’s very non-threatening to read to a dog.

    by Suzanne Powers — August 24, 2016

  6. I work as a volunteer by appointment for the State of North Carolina in a program called SHIIP which is SENIOR HEALTH INSURANCE INFORMATION PROGRAM.
    SHIIP counsels Medicare beneficiaries and caregivers about Medicare, Medicare supplements, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D, and long-term care insurance. The counselors on our toll-free line offer free and unbiased information regarding Medicare health care products. We also help people recognize and prevent Medicare billing errors and possible fraud and abuse through our NC SMP Program.

    This program is available to seniors and those about to become seniors in all 100 counties in NC. With approximately 10,000 seniors nationally reaching age 65 every day as “baby boomers”, there is a definite need for this counseling. We do this daily and especially during the important “open enrollment” period of October 15th through December 7th each year.

    Since the program’s creation in 1986, SHIIP has become a role model for other states and has received two national awards for “innovative” and “exemplary” service.

    by Dan York — August 24, 2016

  7. Volunteering at Snow Mountain Ranch, YMCA of the Rockies

    Snow Mountain Ranch (SMR) is located between Granby, Colorado and Winter Park, Co. Both towns have downhill ski areas. SMR is a Nordic center during the winter. I have volunteered both in the summer and the winter. Volunteers get free room and board and host of opportunities in exchange for 28 hours per week during peak season or 24 hours, the rest of the year.

    Cross country skiers can ski for free at SMR. There are over 50 miles of trails on 5000 acres. Downhill skiers can buy a season pass at Ski Granby Ranch for $20. Volunteers can ask for the Grand pass twice a week, which will allow them to ski for free at Winter Park/Mary Jane ski area. Ski Granby Ranch is a smaller area, but is probably as large as many areas in the mid-Atlantic region.

    During the summer, volunteers can play golf for free at a number of local golf courses. With the Grand Pass you can access the alpine slide and other activities at Winter Park ski area.

    Senior lodging consists of a lodge room which has either a queen bed or two twins, a sink and toilet and shower/tub. The lodge is the original lodge when SMR opened. During the summer, they have a volunteer campground with full hookups if you want to stay in your RV. Meals are at the Commons along with the guests. You get three meals a day even on your days off.

    During the summer of 2014, my wife and I stayed all summer and visited eight national parks in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah on our days off. Rocky Mountain National park is about 20 miles away and is free if you have an Interagency Senior Pass. We have volunteered two winters about five weeks each, and last summer I volunteered for about five weeks at the end of the summer.

    For every month that you work, you earn a comp night (based on availability) at either SMR or Estes Park Center. Obviously, a room is harder to get during the summer, much easier in the fall.

    For new volunteers the minimum work requirement is four weeks. It is not uncommon for hikers to spend the whole summer or skiers to spend the entire winter at SMR. My wife and I worked at the Craft Shop. Other jobs are in programs, HR, IT, library, switchboard, buildings and grounds. For more information or to apply see http://snowmountainranch.org/work/volunteering/ Whenever possible, they try to give couples the same days off.

    Winters can be cold and snowy. But, hey you go there for the skiing. The Winter of 2014 they got 450 inches of powdery stuff. The summers are mild to cool. It’s a heat wave when it hits 80 degrees.

    SMR has indoor and outdoor archery, winter and summer tubing hills, indoor and outdoor climbing walls, a swimming pool, gymnasium, hiking trails, fishing, canoeing, biking (even fat tube bikes in the winter), dog sled rides, and zip lines are some of the things they have. Most are free based on space availability (archery, climbing wall etc.).

    With free room and board and a plethora of activities, you’re not going to get a better deal. If you know of a better deal, contact me at asai1693atgmaildotcom. Feel free to contact me if you’re interested in learning more about my experience at SMR.

    Word of caution, if you’re seriously affected by altitude, SMR is at approximately 9000 feet.

    The YMCA has other conference centers on Lake George, NY and in North Carolina. I believe Silver Bay, NY center is only open in the summer. YMCA of the Rockies has another conference center in Estes Park, Co. I have heard that the NY center requires a longer commitment. And from experience, I know Estes Park Center, because of returning volunteers and a shortage of housing requires a longer commitment. SMR is open all year round. So if you wanted, you could probably volunteer for a year or longer.

    by Matthew Asai — August 24, 2016

  8. I like having some semblance of a schedule, so on Monday mornings I volunteer with a cat rescue, Tuesday mornings my husband and I deliver for Meals on Wheels, and Wednesday afternoons I volunteer in the children’s department of our local library. That way I have a variety of things to so, while still having plenty of time to myself. And it has still been easy for us to travel as long as I give the volunteer jobs a little notice of when I will be gone!

    by Linda — August 25, 2016

  9. One of the things I noticed about friends who retired with the goal of ‘taking a year’ before volunteering ended up not volunteering. They became hesitant because of the ‘commitment issue’ of volunteering. So I started volunteering before retirement.

    I have been volunteering now for 6 years at the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport as a ‘Navigator’ one afternoon/evening a week. Not only was it a learning experience (you go through weeks of training), but a source of friendship with those in your group and a real sense of purpose.

    This program not only assists with ‘air travel’ questions (reading boarding passes & directions to gates), but answers questions about restaurants, ground transportation, where to buy certain items, where different facilities are located in the airport and assisting international passengers.

    In Phoenix this is a large program (run by the City of Phoenix) with between 300-400 volunteers who man positions in the airport from 8am to 8pm 7 days a week (4 hour shifts). Helping as been a consistent thread running through my working career and now into retirement …love it!

    by CJ Baskel — August 31, 2016

  10. Volunteering can be a mixed bag. Some organizations give the impression that if you can afford to give your time away, it cannot be worth much. Or, they want the expertise you bring from your career on a board to raise money, even if you’d rather just be a worker bee.

    by Sandie — September 1, 2016

  11. Some volunteer opportunities can be fun and rewarding. However, some can leave a bad taste in your mouth. A friend of mine volunteered at a soup kitchen and a few of the clients were just obnoxious. They would demand more food and drinks and treated my friend and other volunteers like servants from the middle ages. Granted these people have stumbled upon rough times but to try to give your heart to those in need and then treated badly isn’t the experience that was expected. My friend quit volunteering.

    by Louise — September 1, 2016

  12. I’m still employed but volunteer at a local Humane Society, doing “cat care”. The need is great, the company of animals so relaxing and rewarding, and the help is very much appreciated . I intend to dedicate more time to this endeavor once retired

    by Mary Ellen — September 2, 2016

  13. Louise, perhaps some are not “cut out” for volunteering. Ben involved with two separate voluntary situations for the past 5 years. Yes….you are working with the general public and all that entails. Not everyone would make your Christmas Card list for a variety of reasons. And yet, I find the good(and the rewards) outweigh any down side. I receive my satisfaction internally, if you will, so it continues to work for me!

    by doc stickel — September 2, 2016

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