By Nancy Johnson
Joe Kendall, of Evansville, retired in 2008 after more than 30 years at the Social Security Administration. Today, he uses his organizational skills volunteering for AARP.
Kendall, 64, is a member of AARP Indiana’s volunteer Executive Council, which provides guidance to the staff and coordinates the activities of volunteers involved in programs such as Take Charge of Your Financial Future seminars and Caregiver Connection events, which help family caregivers learn about resources.
In July, as part of the AARP Fraud Watch Network, a program that alerts people to frauds and scams, his team cosponsored a Shred Day with the Vanderburgh County Solid Waste District. “We had 350 vehicles in three hours dropping off materials to be shredded,” Kendall recalled. “They were lined up a quarter-mile long, and we handed out Fraud Watch materials.”
One of about 80 volunteers appointed by AARP Indiana for frequent tasks, Kendall is looking forward to honing his leadership skills at this year’s AARP Volunteer Summit, Oct. 13-14 in Carmel. The summit for current volunteers offers “really excellent camaraderie and education and fun,” he said.
The summit gives volunteers from around the state an opportunity to meet one another and learn skills such as organizing, advocacy and public speaking. Typically there is a speaker from the AARP national office and a session examining legislative and other issues that AARP will focus on in the coming year.
In addition, there is a volunteer recognition dinner to thank these members for their service.
“We have a small staff here in Indianapolis, and there are 830,000 AARP members in Indiana,” said June Lyle, AARP Indiana state director. “Our volunteers help us connect with the members all across the state. We couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers.”
More volunteers and team leaders are needed, said Mandla Moyo, AARP Indiana associate state director for community outreach. “We would love to get more folks with ties to the community, so that we can use their existing skills and connections,” he said.
AARP offers a variety of volunteer opportunities and strives to match each volunteer with his or her interests and time constraints, Moyo added. Among the programs in which volunteers participate are Fraud Watch Network; AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, which offers free tax preparation services; Smart Driver programs, which help update motorists’ skills; and legislative advocacy on behalf of older residents.
“Some may be interested in legislative issues, some may like helping with office tasks. People who are busy during the day can volunteer for weekend or night events. We also need people to be online advocates, to send out emails to legislators,” Moyo said.
People volunteer with AARP for two main reasons: friendship and satisfaction in serving others. “The biggest thing we hear is that people are able to build relationships with others outside of work. In addition, volunteers see the direct results of their advocacy goals,” Moyo said.
AARP volunteers make a big impact with their efforts, said Linda Dunno, of Fort Wayne. Dunno, 66, another Executive Council member, leads a team of local volunteers. She uses the advocacy skills she learned as a local Chamber of Commerce director and works hard to get to know state legislators.
Dunno pointed to the legislative team’s advocacy work on the CARE Act, a new state law that improves coordination and communication among family caregivers, their loved ones and hospitals. “When you get a win like that, it’s pretty gratifying,” she said.
Kendall, too, is motivated to make a difference. “I’m a firm believer in the saying ‘What’s good for seniors is good for everyone,’ ” he said.
“AARP champions nonpartisan issues such as safer communities, aging in place, caregiver resources, financial security and fraud prevention, which are good for seniors but also good for everybody,” he added. “It gives me a good, warm feeling that I’m doing that.”
To find out more about volunteering with AARP, call 317-423-7109 or toll-free 866-448-3618, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nancy Johnson is a freelance writer based in South Bend, Ind.