Volunteerism is alive and well in Southern Delaware, and the many organizations that constantly seek volunteers love us seniors. Dependable, inspired and available.
Whether it is for a specific event or an ongoing mini slot of time, nonprofit and religious organizations are always appreciative, and the biggest demographic of their volunteers is – you guessed it, seniors.
Delaware state even has a department dedicated solely for the purpose of encouraging volunteerism in the Frist State. They even have a division, Volunteer Delaware 50 +, a terrific resource for volunteer opportunities, an events calendar, links to participating organizations and more.
You can even find your passion. Some cause ideas include animal welfare, healthcare and hospice care, food insecurity and food drives, the performing arts, children’s welfare and more. You might even find yourself volunteering for an organization or event that you may not have ever heard about.
The obvious reason that volunteer recruitment emphasizes senior participation is that in general, we have a bit more time than we had during our careers and while raising families. There are plenty of examples of seniors using their expertise and special interests in ways they’d never consider.
Take Tina, a registered nurse who is still working full time, but uses her experience and benevolence to help her neighbors learn Basic Life Support, First Aid, CPR and how to use the neighborhood’s AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) in case of an unexpected emergency.
Tina F. has volunteered much of her spare time to coordinate educational programs with the American Heart Association and American Red Cross. Another neighbor in her Covered Bridge Trails development has voluntarily organized a community blood drive under the auspices of Blood Bank of Delmarva. No more driving an hour to donate blood at their donation sites. It can be done within the neighborhood.
A full listing of state-approved volunteer opportunities is on the Volunteer Delaware 50+ website, but seniors certainly are not limited to these organizations. There are parishes, congregations, and up and coming crowd-funding causes that are forever seeking help from volunteers.
Retiree Ward F. unexpectedly became a host foster family for shelter animals that had no available space in the Georgetown-based Brandywine Valley SPCA. There are also animals that for medical or other reasons can not handle the stress of a noisy and crowded shelter. He became a foster parent three different times. All three dogs were successfully adopted by other families, with the added bonus of adoption of a pet already acclimated to a home environment. Ward’s family ended up adopting a permanent dog of their own.
Kate H. has an adult son with Down Syndrome. She and her husband are ardent volunteers for Down Syndrome Association of Delaware, and have recruited several other volunteers for events such as Buddy Walk and the annual Polar Plunge.
Meg R. from the same neighborhood picked up the pickleball surge once she moved to southern DE, and now pays her interest back by volunteering with beginner and women’s instructional clinics. If pickleball or any other athletic endeavor appeals to your volunteerism, check out the Cape Gazette’s events calendar filled with benefit running, walking and cycling events. There is no such thing as too many volunteers at these kind events.
Food Bank of Delaware and Harry K Foundation both address the surprising prevalence of food insecurity in Delaware. Organize a neighborhood drive, show up at their distribution events to assist or even use any public relations talents you may have to help get the message out there.
The best place to start and find contact information for any of these organizations is Volunteer Delaware 50+ (Sussex). Another upside to signing up for their volunteer notifications is that you can also document how many hours you personally have volunteered. Few people realize this, but when nonprofit organizations seek grant funding, a huge asset to their application is their ability to document the number of volunteer hours people serve.
Volunteer Delaware 50+ keeps track of your hours. All you have to do is keep track of and report your time. Not only are you helping organizations succeed, but documenting your volunteer hours increases their eligibility for public, private and foundation funding.
As Ghandi famously suggests, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
By Bridget Fitzpatrick, The Delaware Retiree Connection Resident Journalist