Seniors contribute, grow through volunteering

More than 19,000 volunteer hours — worth $297,500 — have been given to both Mercer Island Youth and Family Services and Parks and Recreation.

“We could not do what we do without your help,”Mayor Bryan Cairns said at the volunteer appreciation event that was held at the Community Center at Mercer View on Monday, April 16. “We rely on you volunteers. Thank you!”

The month of April is National Volunteer Recognition month, and the theme of our recognition event was a Western round-up. More than 100 of our volunteers attended the event. Many of the volunteers told me that volunteering helps them to give back to their community. City manager Rich Conrad said: “Volunteering is about your community.”

You can really see the special commitment from our volunteers in this Mercer Island community. Meredith Glass retired in 1974, and has been volunteering ever since. Currently she is volunteering her time at the community center’s preschool drop-in times. “I love what I do,” Glass said.

We also have many volunteers who have been with the Thrift Shop or the office of Youth and Family Services for over 20 years. Now that is commitment — not even any YFS staff members have been here that long.

Seniors make up about half of the nation’s total volunteer force. Many nonprofit organizations cannot survive without this valuable resource. And for seniors, it can be a valuable and rewarding experience.

“This is my retirement job,” said Connie Carson, who officially retired on June 1 of this year. Others have shared that it helps to create meaning in their lives and forges a social network that can be harder to re-create as you get older. But we are also seeing a change in volunteerism. Many senior volunteers are now more mobile or are still working, which changes the amount of time that they can give. Many choose to volunteer at several places rather than spending more time with one organization.

Volunteering fills so many needs for the community and the individual who gives their time. There are the obvious benefits of feeling good, helping others and giving back to your community. But there are also structural benefits of affordable help, creating a new community of friends and enriching an already existing program. I look forward to seeing and working with our fabulous volunteers. They are a very important part of our team and an absolute joy to have. Thank you, to all of you.

Contact Betsy Zuber, Geriatric Specialist, at 236-3525, e-mail

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