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The following article is reprinted with permission from the Vitality supplement to the Oakland Press newspaper. Click here to read the story on the Oakland Press website. The photo is of “Mary Lou Krzyminski of Roseville a Retired Senior Volunteer at the Detroit Zoo.” The photo is credited to David Dalton. The article is written by Debra Kaszubski, for Digital First Media.
Locals are finding great volunteer gigs
Mary Lou Krzyminski’s coworkers at her volunteer gig include macaroni penguins and house full of colorful butterflies. In the warmer months, she mingles with giraffes, lions, a herd of peacocks, numerous curious human families, and more. The Roseville resident is a volunteer at The Detroit Zoo, a job that’s perfect for this educated, energetic former school teacher.
Krzyminski is involved with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), a nonprofit that helps adults ages 55 and older find volunteer opportunities that suit their interests and abilities. RSVP is sponsored by various organizations across the country. The work at the zoo is a perfect match for Krzyminski, who retired 19 years ago from Warren Woods School Middle School, where she taught life science and math. She’s a Zoo Ambassador in the spring in summer, during which time she walks the zoo’s sizable grounds answering questions. In the winter, she works in the butterfly house and in the new penguin exhibit. She’s at the zoo an average of four days a week and has been serving there for the past 15 years.
“It keeps you young,” she said. “My biggest joy is when I see former students here. If you want to meet a great group of friends and have a good time while you’re doing it, then this is the place to be.”
RSVP helps seniors interested in finding a volunteer experience that best suits their skills and interests. The range of local volunteer opportunities is huge, including: playing music in a hospital lobby, visiting homebound seniors, gardening to raise food for food banks, teaching exercise classes to seniors, transporting the disabled to appointments or running their errands, packing or delivering food for Meals on Wheels, completing home repairs or chores for the disabled, being a docent at a cultural institutions, and assisting in classrooms for the young as well as adult literacy.
“Most people volunteer for altruistic reasons, but there are great side effects. Research shows that volunteers live long, happier, healthier lives. It is thought to be from staying physically and socially active as well as purposeful,” said Trista Johnson RSVP coordinator, Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan. “I have seen this many times. I see dozens of great friendships formed by volunteering with people of similar interests.”
So how can you find your volunteering joy? The following are tips on how to find a gig that works for you:
KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE TO OFFER
Nonprofits are often seeking people who can help them in precise areas, like fundraising, PR and marketing, event planning and finances. Specific skills run the gamut from coaching to mentoring, web design, writing and accounting.
CONSIDER YOUR TRUE PURPOSE
Volunteering can be something you want to do to add dimension to your life. A number of people volunteer to be in the community, and are not specific about the mission of the nonprofit.
BE REALISTIC ABOUT YOUR AVAILABILITY
If it’s going to be too time consuming or too difficult to get there, it might not work out. Krzyminski likes the flexibility offered by the zoo, she said.
DECIDE WHERE AND HOW YOU WANT TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Do you want to devote your energy to a local nonprofit, where you can quickly see the fruits of your efforts and work alongside people in your community? Or spend your time on a larger national effort, perhaps a virtual one, where you’re working on your own via your computer with no face-to-face social interaction?
CONSIDER HELPING WHERE THERE IS THE MOST NEED
There are so many people in need and organizations doing good work in metro Detroit. The aging population is increasingly in need of hot meal delivery, companionship and chore services, schools can use adults to read with young students and tutor them in math, veterans need assistance understanding and accessing their benefits, and the food and housing insecure need emergency assistance and knowledge of available resources, Johnson said.
Wherever you decide to serve, chances are good that you’ll gain as much as you give. “Volunteering can help put your own difficulties in perspective. Volunteering at a food bank, with homebound seniors, adults learning to read or speak English or infants with health issues can make your plumbing or car problems seem much more manageable,” Johnson said.
In Oakland and Macomb Counties, those interested in finding volunteer opportunities through RSVP can contact Johnson at Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 248-559-1147 ext. 3941. Wayne County residents can call 313-883-2100. RSVP staff will explain the program and mail an application.
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