Pay it Forward - Baby Boomer Volunteer Opportunities

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If you're considering moving out of your comfort zone and relocating to the Southeast, the sooner you meet people and get connected, the happier you will be. Share a smile, give a hug, tell a story. Baby Boomers are often accused of being selfish. Raising kids and climbing the corporate ladder to pay our bills has consumed us. Guilty as charged, many of us because we have been selfish with our time. The time clock is now shifting our focus to the future, maybe the desire to leave a legacy behind through volunteerism.

Volunteering is the perfect avenue to support a cause passionate to you. Could it be teaching, feeding the homeless, mentoring a young person or greeting visitors at the hospital? When decide on how to help, consider the time commitments charities will ask of you. Not all permit flexible schedules. Most require an orientation and training session of some sort. Some charities will allow you to come and go as you please, while others will need a specific date/time from you to meet their needs.

Gifting money is an easier gift, if you can spare the change. Giving your time is more complicated and can be more rewarding. More rewarding to some, face to face appreciation from someone who may be down and out. Maybe you don't want to be that closely involved with the homeless, poor or terminally ill. The National Park Service seeks volunteers year round to help at America's 394 national parks. Get outdoors by being a trail guide, entrance greeter or a special projects volunteer. If you find animals irresistible, the Humane Society would be thrilled if you volunteered your time to help them. Walk a dog, help in the office or use your sales skills to help a fundraising event.

Check out Senior Corps founded in the 1960's and they are excellent at what they do. Senior Corps connects 55+ adults with organizations who need help the most. From disaster relief, mentoring the youth, supporting military families to helping seniors homebound maintain their independence, Senior Corps coordinates more than 500,000 volunteers looking to serve the community through volunteerism.

Or consider AmeriCorps, the American version of the Peace Corps. AmeriCorps volunteers serve in the United States for 10 months to one year. The Peace Corps is a global two year commitment. Both organizations give you a chance to see other places while helping the community.

If you would rather stay close to home, health care organizations would be appreciative to have your help. The Ronald McDonald House hosts families with children admitted to nearby hospitals. Years ago, I cooked lasagna dinners and cleaned up for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House. Words can't express how good I felt helping these families knowing it gave them more time and energy to focus on their sick child.

Hospice Services has volunteer opportunities of all levels to help the terminally ill. As a Hospice Companion, I visited patients at home or in the hospital. One funny request a patient asked of me. She loved horses and said before she died she would love to touch a horse again. I thought to myself, that was highly unlikely in her condition. She shared with me a story about "Elvis" she had read in the newspaper. Elvis is a miniature horse who visits children and the elderly hospitals around South Florida. I tracked Elvis down and found him in Deerfield Beach Florida. After cutting through her hospitals red tape, Elvis and I visited her together. She couldn't believe she saw Elvis and I reflect on that special moment we shared together. I knew God was in control and He knew I was crazy enough to pull it off.

The funniest moments I had with Elvis were walking him through the hospitals of South Florida. It was also funny seeing my son Austin's facial expression when Elvis poked his head in the front seat of the mini-van, just to be beside us on the way to our hospital visits.

If your schedule is unpredictable and busy, become a Hospice Companion volunteer to visit nursing homes. You can visit nursing homes whenever it fits into your schedule. So many seniors are desperate for conversation and the chance to go down memory lane. Contact the local Hospice Care Program in your neighborhood to learn more.

Don't be afraid to be closely involved through volunteerism. We were blessed again with the opportunity to be a Big Brother & Sister to a teenager. Not planned, but we heard God's call and got involved. Johnny O is part of our family and is loved deeply changing our lives forever.

Ralph Waldo Emerson put it this way, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

Deliver dinner to seniors through Meals on Wheels or coach a sports team at a church. Do whatever your comfort level allows. Need more idea's? Check out CNN Heroes for more ideas, but get a tissue first. The stories are tearjerkers, stories of unselfish human beings who have made our world a better place.

Pay it forward.

Always yours, Margie Casey Founder

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