Content starts here
AARP AARP States Arizona Caregiving

Arizona Volunteers Have Statewide Impact

Volunteering with AARP Arizona is just one of the ways that Jerry Holmes, 73, a retired middle school principal and lifelong Tucson resident, tries to make a difference. He also volunteers with an organization that removes barbed wire from national monument lands. Holmes is one of more than a dozen AARP Arizona legislative volunteers.
Photo Credit: Steven Meckler

After 23 years as a middle school principal, AARP legislative advocacy volunteer Jerry Holmes doesn’t get intimidated by public speaking.

“Give me a microphone and I’m in heaven!” says the 73-year-old lifelong resident of Tucson.

Holmes is one of more than a dozen volunteers who support AARP Arizona’s legislative priorities by calling and emailing state representatives and their staffers, speaking to retirees and community groups and working with other advocacy organizations on statewide committees.

The volunteers, who work primarily in their own legislative districts across the state, will convene at the Capitol in Phoenix on Tuesday, March 26, for AARP’s annual Day at the Legislature. They’ll get the chance to meet state lawmakers and staffers—and each other—in person.

AARP Arizona’s top legislative priority this year is pushing for improvements to the state’s long-term care system, including more training for care workers and increased reporting requirements of injuries at facilities, says Brendon Blake, AARP Arizona director of advocacy. AARP is looking for volunteers to help advocate at the Legislature, as well as for Arizonans willing to share their experiences with the state’s nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

“We think that this is really a nonpartisan issue,” Blake says. “It’s very clearly an issue of dignity and doing what’s right.”

Volunteer advocates don’t need any experience. AARP provides training on how to approach and speak to lawmakers, testify before committees and sign into the online request-to-speak system, which allows residents to offer comments about potential policies. AARP also needs “e-advocates,” who email representatives.

Livability also a focus

Holmes is passionate about advocating for policies to make communities more livable and to increase affordable housing, especially for older adults.

Jerry Holmes removes barbed wire in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. Photo Credit: Steven Meckler

He thrives on the back-and-forth discussions with lawmakers and being able to express AARP’s opinions on important topics via emails and conversations. Holmes also shares AARP’s priorities with his unit of the All Arizona School Retirees Association.

Ritch Steven, 77, of Prescott, has volunteered for AARP at the state and national levels for 23 years, including a six-year stint as AARP Arizona’s volunteer state president. A former nursing home administrator, he provides invaluable insight to the state office on long-term care issues, Blake says.

Steven says in-person testimony has become less common at the Legislature in recent years, so volunteers more often make comments through the online request-to-speak system. During hearings, you can see lawmakers scrolling through the comments on their portable devices, he says.

Steven likes feeling that his work with AARP can make a difference. And he appreciates that he can choose how much time to commit to volunteering. “If I have other things going on in my life, they understand,” he says.

Interested in attending AARP’s Day at the Legislature or joining its volunteer ranks? Email or call 866-389-5649.

Hilary Appelman, a Pennsylvania- based writer, covers long-term care and other issues. She has written for the Bulletin since 2011.

More on long-term care

About AARP Arizona
Contact Information and more from your state office. Learn what we are doing to champion social change and help you live your best life.