April Volunteer Spotlight: What Volunteering Can Bring to Retirement

Volunteerism has incredibly impressive statistics attached to its impact on the global scale; it has been estimated to improve the global economy by around $400 billion dollars every year1. This monetary value is only one of the many ways that studies have measured the positive effects of volunteering on the individual. Specifically, retirees that volunteer have been studied because of their own unique role as volunteers. Retired individuals are reported to make up around 45% of the total volunteer hours served in the US in a given year while in reality this population only makes up around 30% of the total number of volunteers in the United States. It is no surprise that volunteering has proven time and time again to be a positive influence on the physical well-being, emotional well-being, and community well-being of its volunteers.

Boston Cares has an amazing volunteer base, and volunteers who are retired are a crucial part of this community. We would like to highlight three individual volunteers whose experiences can tell you a little more about the relationship between retiree and volunteerism and hopefully inspire YOU to get more involved as well!

Barbara VanScoyoc started volunteering through Boston Cares a little over a year ago, just 4 months after retiring from WGBH. She came to Boston Cares when one of her daughter’s friends insisted Barbara volunteer, saying that she “went on a whim to an orientation and it maybe changed [her] life.” These powerful words pushed Barbara into what is now a 14 month volunteer experience, and Barbara admits that now she’s hooked! One of Barbara’s favorite projects was at the Jackson-Mann School helping to reshelve the library with 5 other volunteers. The library was being updated and organized, and as the volunteers’ project came to a close Barbara recalls a student exclaim “Now THAT’S a library!”

During the past 14 months, Barbara has been an active member in the Allies for Immigrants Corps, where she assists students in preparing for the citizenship exam. Barbara was amused at the fact that before this, she had never taught a class in her life. She is now good friends with her civics co-teacher, discovering over their time volunteering together that they have other mutual interests, such as four-hand piano and the challenges of entertaining young children. This sense of community is what Barbara explains to be one of the more compelling and rewarding parts of her time at Boston Cares.

During her interview, Barbara made sure to mention that at every single project, she meets someone new. She finds it wonderful that so many individuals come together to give their time and learn more about their community. Barbara loves the team spirit of Boston Cares and is impressed by the wide range of ages and interests of her fellow volunteers. During any given project, Barbara feels that she and the other volunteers are “all in it together,” learning the ropes from patient staff members.

Barbara and fellow Boston Cares volunteers at the Jackson Mann School library

Barbara continued to talk about how her retirement experience has been shaped by her volunteer work, recounting that when you’re first retired, most people are trying to figure out how to balance and schedule things like family responsibilities, daily tasks, and how energetic you are. Once you are able to find your own rhythm, the process of figuring out “what’s next” comes into play, and Boston Cares makes this adventure incredibly easy and more varied than most. She finds much value in the elements brought from working on a team and collaborating on a goal together, cherishing the community aspect of volunteer work more and more in her retirement.

Brent Dennis knew that his work wouldn’t be complete once he retired; with his fast paced job, Brent’s co-workers initially laughed in disbelief when he told them that he was retiring, telling him that he’s “not going to have anything to do!” Once winter rolled around and his garden needed less tending he turned to a search for indoor activities and, knowing he was interested in volunteering, Boston Cares came up in his search engine!

Now, after a year of volunteer work through Boston Cares, Brent can walk the walk and talk the talk. During his interview, he explained his passion for individuals utilizing their skills to better help those in need. Brent is always thinking critically about the projects he attends in order to problem solve and get the work done efficiently. He values not only the outcome of those being served but also the connection that a volunteer can have with a non-profit organization. Brent explained that “many retirees have expertise in certain things”, and he believes that these skills and knowledge should be a priority in the minds of volunteers in order to better the organizations they serve.

When asked about his motives for signing up for particular projects, Brent explained how he takes his retired status into thoughtful account when deciding which projects to attend. Knowing that he isn’t restricted by a full-time job, Brent specifically chooses projects that are during the work-week in order to leave other volunteers with tighter schedules more options on the weekends.

For Brent, volunteering has always been about addressing a need. When growing up, Brent and his family put an emphasis on giving back to others, learning to give back whenever you could. Brent shared that even while his family struggled during his youth, they still found ways to help other people. This set an example for him and was one of the many things that pushed him to volunteer. He has since used this connection to join the Allies for Immigrants Corps, tutoring students and watching their passion and interest for the subject grow.

Brent and fellow Boston Cares volunteers at the King School library.

Brent’s advice to those wanting to volunteer starts with perspective. He says that volunteers should think of themselves not only as someone to get a job done in that moment but an active community member bringing their passion and ideas to the table. Brent suggests that you ask yourself what you’re good at and then utilize those skills as best you can for your community.

Fern Fisher is on the newer side of volunteering, joining Boston Cares in December and kicking off her new year with volunteering! Prior to her retirement, Fern worked as an instructional math coach helping teach professional development in math. While she continued to tutor a few students from time to time after retiring, she felt as though it was time to do more for the Greater Boston area and contribute more to her community. Since her New Volunteer Orientation, Fern has felt the impact of volunteerism through a new community sentiment that she sees demonstrated at different projects, specifically mentioning her surprise that ABCD (Action for Boston Community Development), is only a couple of miles from her house and yet, it’s a part of her community she had never gotten to experience before.

After being fully involved in her professional life, retiring was such a drastic change that at first, Fern didn’t know what to do with her newly acquired free time. She spent time throwing herself into different hobbies such as learning music, extending her art experience, and more seriously pursuing photography. While she didn’t look back from the intensity of the working world, she said that she felt in her heart that it wasn’t enough. Fern found that she wanted more structure and to get out of her bubble so that she can give back and be more involved in the community.

Fern laughed when recalling how she first got the idea to volunteer through Boston Cares. After recently spending a fair amount of time helping her 96 year-old mother-in-law navigate the computer so she could write a book, Fern’s interest peaked when hearing about the Tech Goes Home Basic Technology Corps. She said that because she was newly retired she was able to help her mother-in-law through phone calls and long-distance communication and found that she really enjoyed the process of tutoring and appreciated seeing technology become increasingly accessible to more communities.

When asked more about her retirement, Fern said that she expected to know within the first 3-6 months what the next big chunk of her life would be about. She said this stress was lifted once she learned about the variety and flexibility that comes with volunteering through Boston Cares. Boston Cares has given her the opportunity to try all different kinds of things.

Before becoming a volunteer, Fern kept asking herself, “What’s next?” Upon finding Boston Cares, she realized that she doesn’t have to have an answer to that question. Even as a newer volunteer, Fern explained that she has already been impacted by this new part of her life. She says that volunteering makes her feel like she’s learning about people and communities that she wouldn’t come across in her daily life, connecting her to the communities that surround her.

Retirees have been huge contributors to the volunteer world; boosting economies, lending extra hands, and bringing a new sense of purpose to volunteer work. Through the stories of three Boston Cares volunteers, we are able to learn more about the positive impact that giving back to the community can have on retirees, and the impact of those retirees have on their communities.

Barbara, Brent, and Fern are just three retirees that have made space in their life for volunteering, if you’re interested in any of the programs that they’ve mentioned you can get started volunteering as well! If you are looking for flexible opportunities at a variety of nonprofits around the city, check out our Calendar Program. Check out the Allies for Immigrants ESOL Corps for more information about Barbara and Brent’s volunteer experiences! For more information on Fern’s corps experience, check out our Tech Goes Home Basic Technology Corps!

  1. Creasey, Amanda S. “The Benefits of Volunteering in
    Retirement.” Extra Mile, The Hartford, 4 Apr. 2019, extramile.thehartford.com/transitions/benefits-of-volunteering-in-retirement/.