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Volunteering with Retired and Senior Volunteer Program - Repaying Those Who Have Helped Me

by Jim S.

I am a volunteer with RSVP because of events that happened in my life. I am a product of the Military. I served approximately thirty-three years in the Army. My assignments include duty with a number of Special Forces Units, the Institute for Military Assistance and several Army Airborne Divisions. Following my Military Service, I worked as a contractor in a remote area of Africa. This was followed by approximately twelve years with the Department of State in the Foreign Service. I am fortunate in that throughout all of these jobs I was never ill and took any medication.

Following my service with the Department of State I chose to spend my retirement years in Fayetteville, North Carolina. I had previously been assigned to Fort Bragg and enjoyed my time in Fayetteville. Shortly after returning to Fayetteville I was walking down the hallway of my house talking to a friend on the telephone when I went into a coma. My friend called 911 and neighbors, the police and medical personnel broke into my home and took me to Womack Army Hospital.

When I reached Womack my blood sugar level was 1,240. Prior to this I never had any indication, that I recall, that I had diabetes or any other illness. During my stay at Womack it occurred to me that I was not as bullet proof as I had previously thought; and that I had been greatly helped by a number of mentors and others. I noticed that in the hospital with me were individuals, like me, who only needed a "little" help to maintain their independence and be productive. While I was in the hospital my neighbors, people I barely knew, and friends took care of my affairs.

When I was released from Womack I realized that it would be impossible for me to pay the people involved with helping me, so I sought another avenue. I decided to become a volunteer. I have volunteered with the former Big Brother/Big Sister Program, the Highland Chapter of the American Red Cross, the United Way, and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. The Church that I attend emphasizes in its community prayer weekly that we are blessed with time, talent and treasure. I feel that these are the same elements that are required in volunteerism.

So, I have dedicated these to my volunteer efforts. I have been a volunteer with RSVP since 2002. During that time I have delivered meals to the homebound and other performed other jobs. However, the most interesting has been the meals to the homebound. I feel that the individuals whom I serve have been very productive members of the Fayetteville community and now, like I was at Womack, need just a little help to maintain their independence. I often look at the golf balls that I bought years ago and even though I have never used them, know that they will perform flawlessly when I take them to a course. I do the same thing with fishing lures that I bought many years ago. I know that I will catch a lot of fish when I take them to a fishing hole. I feel that the people that I deliver food to have the same kind of positive thoughts about many of the items in their homes thus enhancing their quality of life, which is further enhanced by the meals that I deliver to them.

In one instance I had delivered meals to a recipient for approximately 3 - 4 years. This was a very feisty person who always either queried me about the weather, the traffic or my impression of the news. When I started delivering the meal she would walk slowly to the door to open it. Later, she would come to the door with a walker, and still later she was provided an electric wheel chair. On one occasion when I delivered her meal she was not her usual self. So, I asked her what was troubling her. She said that she had been provided the motorized wheel chair and now it doesn't work. I asked her when was the last time that she had charged the battery in the chair; and she replied, never. I plugged the charger cord into an electrical receptacle and the indicator lights came. She beamed when she realized how simple the solution was; but as I left, she wondered why I hadn't come and fixed it earlier. She was a marvelous person and it was a pleasure for me to deliver her meals. She always took full advantage of the few moments she had with the volunteer.

I have had equally satisfying experiences with others that I deliver food to, but fully realize that the quality of the experience depends upon the rapport that the volunteer has with the people he/she serves.

Volunteerism is also personally rewarding. Several years ago I was very fortunate to receive a "Call to Service" award from the President. The pin was awarded at Pope Air Force, North Carolina during a rain storm. While I waited for the President near his aircraft, I did not carry an umbrella. Following the presentation of the pin, the President gave me his umbrella (which I still have), and walked in rain to his limousine. As a result of receiving the Call to Service Award, last year I was invited to the White House, along with many other volunteers, to hear the President speak on volunteerism. This was an eloquent presentation in which the President thanked the volunteers for their service nationally and internationally. Being present during this presentation was a high honor for me.

I feel that the gist of his presentation was that we should serve the communities in which we live. In my case that community is Fayetteville and Cumberland County. Volunteering here gives me the opportunity to, in a small way; repay those individuals who were so helpful to me during my crisis. Volunteerism also helps satisfy a need to be involved in solving some of the problems that we face in our community. In my case, delivering meals to the homebound has provided me the opportunity to serve longer.

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