Volunteering keeps local retirees young at heart

Published 4:50 pm Monday, February 23, 2009

Many are retired. Several have lost spouses. All of the volunteers with the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program in Shelby County provide more value to the community than they will admit.

“I don’t know that we can put a value on what they offer,” said RSVP coordinator Marvin Copes. “It’s just amazing. Our volunteers work 5,000–7,000 hours a month.”

Jean Schofield’s at the Columbiana Senior Center by 8 a.m. most mornings. While there, she packs up bread for Meals on Wheels, organizes utensils for the next day and places labels on lids. Once those tasks are complete, she sometimes heads over to the Shelby County Jail or the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce to help out.

“Well, I wanted something to do after I retired,” Schofield said. “I didn’t like just sitting here at home.”

Schofield said she recently had back surgery that kept her away for several weeks.

“These four walls really got me,” she said. “I was ready to get back to my weekly tasks.”

There are more than 389 RSVP volunteers in the county. Copes said both the organizations and volunteers benefit.

Kay Witte lost her husband in 2005 and lived in a secluded area without neighbors.

“I found myself just sitting in the house feeling sorry for myself,” Witte said. “I eventually decided I had to get out and do something.”

Now, she volunteers two afternoons a week at the Shelby County Jail. Witte helps visitors get information they need.

“It’s good for me because it puts me in contact with other people,” Witte said. “I seem to need something to keep me busy and there’s always a need somewhere.”

Eunice Staganer has also kept herself busy with volunteering. She became a member of the Pink Ladies at Shelby Baptist Medical Center 12 years ago. She and a friend decided to volunteer and found themselves getting more involved.

“We’re all retired and we have several up in their 80s,” Staganer said. “We know we are really helping the nurses by taking care of things they often don’t have time to. It also helps because it gives volunteers a reason to get up each morning — something to feel good about.”