Gift of time: Local retirees give back by volunteering

Monday, May 3, 2010

When Virginia Ford retired from her job as a registered nurse in 2006, it was not long before she had a second career: volunteer. The Cape Girardeau woman keeps her weeks full with different volunteer activities scheduled every day. She volunteers at the Cape Girardeau Senior Center, the American Red Cross, Teen Challenge and she works as an Ombudsman, an advocate for nursing home residents. Of course, she said, she also volunteers at her church and at any other agency that needs her help.

"I enjoy it. You don't want to retire and sit at home. It is a way to give back. Your time is just as valuable as money, but it can be hard to get people to donate their time," she said.

She said in this economy volunteers make a huge difference for local not-for-profit agencies and that those agencies really appreciate the efforts of their volunteers.

Tina Dohogne, executive director of the Volunteer Intergenerational Center's Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) in Cape Girardeau, said the services that seniors perform as volunteers go a long way to help themselves as well.

"One thing I hear about seniors that volunteer is that they live longer. It keeps their mind and body active. It gets them motivated and gets them feeling that they are needed in the community, which they are. It is a rewarding experience," Dohogne said.

She said many of her volunteers start soon after retirement and continue volunteering for the rest of their lives.

"We have one volunteer that started with us in 1973 and she is 100 now and in a nursing home, but she continues to volunteer in her nursing home," Dohogne said.

She said today's retirees leave the job market with skills that are current and in need by social agencies and not-for-profit groups.

"Everyone is talking about recycling. Our seniors are our best recycling asset. Any service a retiree can do or provide can impact the community. Simple chores can go far," Dohogne said.

She said RSVP partners with 120 local agencies to provide volunteer opportunities for retired seniors. These opportunities range from performing clerical work to providing entertainment at a nursing home. She said there are also special volunteer projects that allow retired seniors to provide transportation to other seniors or advocate for nursing home residents.

Dohogne said retired seniors interested in volunteering can call RSVP at (573) 335-7555, or visit the website at for a listing of current volunteer opportunities.

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