Empty Nesters

The Virtues of Volunteering

To find your niche, focus on activities that pique your interest, and don't overcommit.

My column on fulfilling ways to spend retirement continues to generate inspirational responses from readers, many of whom have sung the praises of volunteering. You also volunteered the names of additional service groups that you have found rewarding. I’ll cite a number of them for those of you in search of a cause that strikes a chord.

Many of your efforts focus on children. After working for more than 40 years as a registered dietician in hospitals and nursing homes, reader Linda Hall volunteers for Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, which delivers gift-filled shoeboxes to children around the world. “I am using my marketing MBA and my organizational and people skills,” writes Hall. “Sometimes I think that my training and experience were meant all along to be applied in my volunteer work.”

Nila Whitfield, who describes herself as a “teacher wannabe” who always wanted to work with kids, has donated time to Make-A-Wish and A Kid Again, helping families with children facing critical illnesses.

Reader Jodie Black requests that I mention her group, National CASA/GAL Association, which has more than 950 local affiliates that train volunteers to work with children in foster care.  

Reader Marty Jacobson helps people at the other end of the age spectrum: He was an original member of Seniors vs. Crime, a special task force of the Florida attorney general’s office dedicated to prosecuting criminals who defraud elderly Florida residents. Now retired, Jacobson has rejoined the task force, which has 36 offices throughout Florida and more than 200 senior volunteers. “I am very evangelical about working for this group,” writes Jacobson.

In addition to being president of a local symphony orchestra, Charles Dye is a mentor with SCORE, a national organ­ization of experienced business­people who counsel small businesses. Says Dye, “I’m 87 and am amazed that I’m still enjoying life.”

Team efforts. Some couples have made volunteering a joint activity. Diane and Tom Howlett began renting motor homes for vacations with their kids. Now retired, they participate in Care-A-Vanners, a project of Habitat for Humanity in which RV travelers can visit sites where construction help is needed. Says Tom, “All that is required to join is an RV and a willingness to help out deserving folks who need a house.” (The program was suspended because of COVID but is scheduled to resume.)

Carol and Ron Jochimsen have combined volunteering with their faith. The Jochimsens made a two-year commitment to travel out-of-state with Laborers for Christ, a project of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, which replaces or repairs small or outdated church structures. “It was a fulfilling activity that took away my desire to be at regular work,” says Ron.

Like many of you, Steve Jansen didn’t have to travel far afield to find fulfillment in religion. “I lead worship services at a summer chapel and volunteer in the music ministry at my church when the chapel is finished for the season,” writes Jansen.

When you consider volunteering, focus on activities that make use of your talents or pique your interest, and don’t overcommit. Choose something that allows flexibility if you’d like to travel or have regular family commitments (also a prime volunteer activity). And be on the lookout for opportunities. Says Jansen, “Each day I pray that if God wants me to do more than I am doing, He will reveal it to me and make me passionate about it.”

Most Popular

How Big of a Threat Does Inflation Pose to Your Retirement?
retirement

How Big of a Threat Does Inflation Pose to Your Retirement?

You might be surprised how much inflation can nibble away at your retirement nest egg over time if you aren’t prepared.
October 3, 2021
13 States That Tax Social Security Benefits
social security

13 States That Tax Social Security Benefits

You may have dreamed of a tax-free retirement, but if you live in these 13 states, your Social Security benefits are subject to a state tax. That's on…
October 4, 2021
4 Big Retirement Blunders (and How to Avoid Them)
retirement

4 Big Retirement Blunders (and How to Avoid Them)

It’s too bad, but financial advisers see these four mistakes all the time. Don’t fall into the same traps.
October 6, 2021

Recommended

12 States That Won't Tax Your Retirement Income
Tax Breaks

12 States That Won't Tax Your Retirement Income

Retirees can save a lot of money in these states that completely exempt the most common types of retirement income – 401(k)s, IRAs and pensions – from…
October 19, 2021
14 States That Won't Tax Your Pension
Tax Breaks

14 States That Won't Tax Your Pension

Some states have pension exclusions with limitations based on age and/or income. But these states don't tax pension income at all, no matter how old y…
October 19, 2021
Taxes in Retirement: How All 50 States Tax Retirees
Tax Breaks

Taxes in Retirement: How All 50 States Tax Retirees

We rated every state, plus Washington, D.C., on how retirees are taxed. We considered taxes on Social Security and other retirement income, tax exempt…
October 19, 2021
10 Least Tax-Friendly States for Retirees
retirement

10 Least Tax-Friendly States for Retirees

When it comes to state and local taxes, retirees in these states are likely to pay more than retirees in other states.
October 14, 2021