"The idea to start a monthly volunteer event was sparked by a conversation I was having with a close friend of mine."

Chris Saccente
Monrovia Providers Group
Monrovia, CA

 

The idea to start a monthly volunteer event in Monrovia, CA was sparked by a conversation I was having with a close friend of mine. She was working for a major corporation and was told she could either get laid off or retire. She retired but wasn’t sure what to do next. I started talking to her about doing volunteer work. It’s what a lot of people our age want to do, but when you’re working and raising a family, you just don’t have time. Later in life, you not only have the time and energy, but you also need a sense of purpose, a reason to get up in the morning.

I’ve been doing volunteer work most of my life. Growing up, we’d deliver holiday meals to needy families, and I was a Candy Striper at the small local hospital. In my 40s, I started doing elder care, helping seniors pay their bills, mostly those who lost their spouses and needed help. I cared for my elderly neighbors whose adult children didn’t live nearby. If they fell or became ill, I rode with them to the hospital. I helped them find rehab and long-term care facilities. I was their first contact on LifeAlert. At that time, my mother was taking care of my grandparents back in New Jersey. I felt badly that I couldn’t be there to help her, so this is how I tried to make up for it.

I don’t have children of my own, but I’ve mentored many kids in our neighborhood over the years – they all mean the world to me. Back in 1997, we found a puppy and brought it home, and with that puppy came the 7-year-old boy who lived across the street. He was a latchkey kid, and I took care of him while his mom was at work until he was 11, when they moved away. I helped neighbors with their girls from the time they were newborns and toddlers. Whenever they had nothing to do or their parents needed to run errands or get out for an evening, they’d come over to my house. I’m still close to all five them, and I have two new little ones in my life.

All that to say, I really wanted to help my friend find the volunteer position that would give her the same kind of joy.

I’d been involved with the Monrovia Providers Group for about three years, working to provide services to seniors in the San Gabriel Valley. But when I took over the Outreach Committee chair position, I expanded our focus to include baby boomers and started the Volunteer & Community Services Opportunities Event to help people in their fifties and beyond discover new ways to get involved in our community and connect across generations.

After our first event back in July of 2017, we knew we’d hit on something, that there was a real need for this kind of thing. Since then, we’ve been hosting these events once a month. At each one, we make sure to have a few people from different nonprofits speak, along with at least one volunteer over age 50 sharing their experiences with the group. People from the community come to learn, get inspired and meet new people over coffee and pastries. It’s a way to bring us together and to learn more about the communities we live in.

I don’t think we’re particularly unique in having a lot of baby boomers who are interested in discovering volunteer opportunities in their communities. We try to reach people in their sixties. That feels like the sweet spot as far as new volunteers go. When I talk to local organizations, they agree — those are the people they want to target.

I’d love for other cities to learn about what we’re doing because it’s highly replicable. I hope that they’ll give it a try!

Use this facilitator’s guide to help you start something in your community. 

Share your story.