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Seniors find fulfillment and friendship as Catholic Charities volunteers

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Tom McGuire retired after a long and fulfilling career in sales and leadership coaching. Despite his vast work experiences, he said he approached Catholic Charities looking for "a sense of purpose." As a volunteer, he finds fulfillment in serving others, and "not getting on my wife’s nerves." 

More than half of Catholic Charities’ volunteers are seniors who find joy in opportunities that renew their faith, express their values, and support the mission of serving poor and vulnerable people. Discovering new places of community is an added bonus.

"Of the more than 3,000 individuals who volunteer annually for Catholic Charites, retirees expand services, fill gaps and provide leadership in immeasurable ways," said Debra Beard, director of volunteers for diocesan Catholic Charities. "Their impact is felt most especially by the clients they serve, such as when a carefully prepared meal is served to a homeless man, or a car is given to a needy family."

The Arlington diocese is home to a unique pool of retired professionals with myriad skills and expertise who apply those abilities, dedication and work ethic to leading ministries, hosting arts and crafts for seniors, mentoring, or providing legal and medical service. After years of complicated work life, Beard said many say they are happy serving in simple yet meaningful roles such as stacking cans on food pantry shelves.

After years in the workaday world, the newfound time and space of retirement presents an opportunity to discover the vocation of service. Beard recalled many recent examples.

One retired nurse who kept her license to practice now provides essential medical care to the uninsured at the Mother of Mercy Medical Clinic in Manassas, without the demands of a fulltime nursing job. The facility serves patients without regular medical care, many arrive with undiagnosed, life-threatening medical conditions such as diabetes.

A retired aerospace executive-turned-volunteer helped the St. Lucy Project food warehouse in its early days to find new ways for the bare-bones staff to distribute food safely and efficiently. Another former longtime government worker quickly realized that retirement arrived too soon. She said she found purpose and meaning volunteering and it alleviated her feelings of restlessness and boredom.

Staff at the St. Margaret of Cortona Maternity and Transitional Housing Program for Families in Woodbridge recently recognized longtime volunteers Paul Zerkow and Kevin Tamai for their repairs to apartments where homeless mothers and their children reside. This effort saved the agency thousands of dollars in contracting services. Paul and Kevin say they love using their skills to help but also enjoy the added benefit of playing catch outside with the children. 

"Seniors bring love in their merciful works of service to Catholic Charities, and we welcome others to serve alongside them too," Beard said.

For more information

For more info on service options for retirees, email volunteer@ccda.net.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021