There’s no better example of the power and passion of a lifetime of volunteerism than our 39th president, Jimmy Carter. Carter, 92, and his wife, Rosalynn, 90, have been advocates for the extraordinary benefits of volunteering as well as what they’ve received in return. “Throughout my life, I’ve seen the difference that volunteering efforts can make in people’s lives. I know the personal value of service as a local volunteer,” Jimmy Carter once noted.
With retirement comes the opportunity to share skills and life experiences. Jane Helfgott, owner of The BOLT Quilt Shop in Monroe, says, “Our philosophy is that it takes a village. Our volunteers have a desire to give back. Their life experience has taught them that there’s much to be grateful for, and that every person faces hardship at some point in their life.”
The BOLT Quilt Shop offers volunteer opportunities at-home and in-store. Teamwork Tuesdays at the shop are charity driven sessions when volunteers — “The BOLT Bees” — gather to work on creating twin-size quilts and pillowcases for local safe houses. While knowledge of sewing/quilting is helpful, experience is not required. These volunteers can also press, cut and hand sew. theboltquiltshop.com
The shop’s at-home volunteer quilt program is BlueRKBlocks (RK stands for the Raspberry Kiss pattern). This project was started by a law enforcement friend of Helfgott’s in the wake of the July death of NYPD police officer Miosotis Familia. The officer’s family was the first recipient of a Blue RK quilt. theboltquiltshop.com/piecing-call-to-action/
If your interests lie in healthcare, consider Western Connecticut Health Network’s (WCHN) members Danbury, New Milford, and Norwalk Hospitals. Amy Faith Lionheart, M.A., M.B.A, manager, volunteer services for Danbury and New Milford Hospitals, says, “The aging population of our citizens is likely to be the biggest demographic story of our times. A whopping 20% of our population is now over 60 years of age. At WCHN, we look to our volunteers to support and enhance the work of our staff.”
Volunteer opportunities here include patient and non-patient centered roles. If you enjoy baking, Lionheart asks that you consider joining their Baked with Love Program, in which volunteers bake for patients and visitors. danburyhospital.org.
At Norwalk Hospital, Maura Romaine, director, volunteer services, states, “A very supportive community of volunteers — who gives their talent, skills, and time to provide comfort and service to patients, families and visitors — helps us in our mission. Senior volunteers deliver newspapers to patients, assist in patient transport, and help in offices.”
They also assist in the Grace Cole Jones Gift Shop and are there to comfort patients and families in waiting areas. They make teddy bears for pediatric patients and comfort pillows for surgical patients. 203-852-2023.
Food-centered volunteerism is available through the Connecticut Food Bank. Delores Wisdom, volunteer coordinator, welcomes the talents and expertise of seniors. “Seniors can help with our main volunteer activities at our distribution centers (food sorting and packing), distribute food at mobile food pantries, engage in public awareness at events and, as Hunger 101 presenters, assist with fundraising, office support, or grant research,” Wisdom explains. “Studies, some conducted by the Corporation for National & Community Service, have shown that older adults remain healthier and are more active because of their participation in volunteer activities.” ctfoodbank.org
At Stratford-based Habitat for Humanity ReStore, senior volunteers are always welcome. Richard Desautels, ReStore manager, says “We realize that the senior population has a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge that has been acquired through their personal and professional lives. We’re grateful when volunteers can share their talents and assist us in our mission of ending substandard housing in Coastal Fairfield County.” Contact Ada Lopez, [email protected] or 203-383-4358.
“We love volunteers!” exclaims Patti Woods, museum coordinator of The Trumbull Historical Society. The Trumbull Historical Society is always looking for docents to give tours the first and third Sundays of the month. Woods adds, “We have two big events coming up, History Ablaze and the Harvest House Tour. We’re in need of volunteers to take tickets, handle refreshments, decorate, etc. We work with area schools, so teachers are always appreciated. We’re currently cataloging our collections, so if organization is your strength, we can utilize your skills.” Email [email protected] with the subject “Volunteer” or call 203-377-6620.
The Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk relies heavily on the support of volunteers to help with various tasks, according to Melissa Feliciano, manager, Museum Services, “We need volunteers as museum docents (tour guides), to greet guests in our Museum Shop, and perform clerical work, curatorial, educational, and special events,” Feliciano says. “Senior volunteers have a wealth of experience behind them and come from a variety of backgrounds which can be very helpful in many different museum activities.” Contact Melissa Feliciano, [email protected], 203-838-9799 x115.
The New Canaan Nature Center also offers volunteering opportunities for seniors. Animal care volunteers assist with daily feeding and care of their many animal ambassadors. Volunteers also water plants and prune in the greenhouse and gardens along with administrative and special event support.
Michelle Hips, director of community engagement, explains, “Volunteerism at any age is important as it can help teach life skills and foster a sense of commitment to the idea of giving back; for seniors specifically, however, I think volunteerism is invaluable. Not only does it keep them active and engaged in their community, but it also gives them a chance to share their life experiences with younger generations.” [email protected]
The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk is another great place for seniors to keep active. Prior expertise with marine animals is not required. Volunteer training courses will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m., October 3 – 24. maritimeaquarium.org/support/volunteer
Book lover? The Darien Library is fortunate to have loyal, dedicated senior volunteers. From organizing books and website maintenance to digitizing materials and tending the library’s herb garden and seed library, there is something for everyone. darienlibrary.org/volunteers
If physical fitness is more your speed, the Riverbrook Regional YMCA in Wilton wants you! Seniors may choose to volunteer in preschool classrooms, tutor, coach, assist the Y’s Special Olympics teams and special needs programs, or work at the Welcome Desk or at special events. Christene Freedman, director of development & marketing, observes, “As a community service organization, the Wilton Family YMCA thrives on people helping out. It’s an exciting and rewarding experience to share, teach, give and to learn by working with other people toward a common good.” wiltonymca.org/volunteering/.