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Baby Boomers present future volunteer opportunities and need

Oct. 19, 2013
 
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Volunteers work inside Bethesda Thrift Shop in Green Bay. Volunteers spent time at the store Thursday as part of The Volunteer Center kickoff event in efforts for Make a Difference Day, which is Oct. 26. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media

Make A Difference Day events

Press-Gazette Media and the Volunteer Center of Brown County have set up a number of volunteer activities.
Neighborhood Volunteer Connection: Doing fall yard work and other chores for seniors and people with disabilities. In addition to the work, it helps the residents feel connected to other people in their community. The need for this service has increased with the growing number of elderly people in the community. The work takes place through Nov. 15 at a time agreed upon by the homeowner and the volunteers.
Cards for seniors: Press-Gazette Media will be one of two host sites for families to make holiday cards that can be sent to seniors throughout the year. Groups can also make cards at the Volunteer Center, 984 Ninth St., Green Bay.
Bethesda Thrift Shop: Help raise funds to support programs for people with disabilities by helping at the Bethesda Thrift Shop. Tasks include cleaning, sorting, pricing, merchandising and displaying donated items for sale.
Brown County Human Services Department: Assist with a variety of tasks at The Gathering Place Victory Garden, a recovery center for people with mental illness, including planting bulbs, building and repair projects and fall garden cleanup.
Greater Green Bay YMCA: Assist with family-friendly Halloween activities including Halloween parties and the Aurora BayCare Spooky Sprint Race Day.
Make a Difference Day Party for Seniors: Help create activities for seniors at a party at the Aging and Disability Resource Center.
NEW Zoo: Family-friendly volunteering: running children’s activities, decorating, taking tickets, etc., at Zoo Boo, the NEW Zoo’s largest fundraising event.

To learn more

Contact volunteercenter@volunteergb.org, call (920) 429-9445 or go to volunteergb.org.
To learn about options in other communities, go to pointsoflight.org/signature-events/make-difference-day.

More

With baby boomers sliding into retirement, volunteer agencies say they see a group with potential to give back as well as a looming need for continued support of community services by volunteers.

A number of volunteers working with the home-bound meals program (a.k.a “meals on wheels”) provided by the Brown County Aging and Disability Resource Center have seen the benefits of volunteer work firsthand and want to the join the ranks of those helping.

Some of the 300 volunteers delivering the 500 meals a day are the children of people enrolled in the program. The agency has about 500 volunteers across its programs.

“They see the benefits of the program, and they end up calling a year or two later after their parent passes away or goes to a nursing home,” said Sandy Groeschel, nutrition and volunteer coordinator with the center. “They’ll say ‘It helped me so much as a caregiver that I want to give back.’”

Volunteers make daily contributions such as taking meals to home-bound residents, as well as other gestures like helping with yard work for elderly neighbors. Volunteers will be out in force Saturday, many helping older residents, as part of Make a Difference Day, an annual event focused on community service and coordinated locally by the Volunteer Center and Press-Gazette Media.

Read more about Make a Difference Day and find out how to volunteer.

A number of organizations — from schools and churches to businesses — say they’ve seen an upward trend in the number of people involved in volunteer activities.

“Older population, like the baby boomers, are still very active ... and continuing to make volunteer work part of their retirement,” said Jim Radey, director of the retired and senior volunteer program housed in the Volunteer Center of Brown County. “People are realizing that’s a way to stay active or using the skills they spent a lifetime developing. There was a study done a number of years ago about what people miss most when they retired, and the highest-rated thing was working together with others toward a common goal.”

Radey said he’s seen some shifting in the volunteer opportunities that attract interest from people.

“Sometimes they want a limited term, they want to work on something and move on to something else, whereas 20 years ago I’d match somebody with a volunteer job on Tuesday afternoons and that’s where they went for as long as they could do it,” he said. “They’re looking for more impact-related volunteering.”

About 76 million Americans were born between 1945 and 1964, the “baby boom” era.

The need for volunteer support of services for older Americans will likely increase as baby boomers move further into retirement, Groeschel said. That also comes at a time when funding sources for community programs are on the decline.

“There’s going to be a huge need for people receiving services,” she said. “We’re out talking in high schools and colleges now to those kids about our program, and also about the important role they’re going to play when they are out of college and giving back to the community.

“We’re trying to mentor people early on to get into that volunteer mode.”

She also sees baby boomers as a pool of Americans that will have more skills to offer in terms of filling volunteer roles and compiling or managing computer-based databases, for example.

“They’re going to have a lot more to offer once they’re retired,” Groeschel said. “We’re working with a lot of people with high-level skills that we can probably tap into the future at a time when our federal funding is decreasing.”

nphelps@pressgazettemedia.com and follow him on Twitter@nathanphelpsPG or on Facebook at Nathan Phelps (Press-Gazette)

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