AARP Eye Center
Jim Campbell was just 26 years old when he decided to help improve the lives of older adults.
Working as a community organizer in Baltimore at the time, he helped create a nonprofit group to provide transportation to adults age 55-plus and empower them to age in place independently.
“That was really rewarding,” says Campbell, now 75. “It was my first involvement working with seniors.”
Nearly 50 years later, Campbell still champions issues important to older adults, as AARP Maryland’s volunteer state president. He is the office’s most visible advocate on public policy and leads volunteers’ efforts at the General Assembly on issues affecting the lives of the state’s 50-plus population.
Campbell has spearheaded outreach efforts on everything from the 2020 U.S. census to veterans’ benefits.
“For AARP staff and volunteers, he’s really an inspiration,” says Nancy Carr, AARP Maryland associate state director of communications. “He puts in as many hours a week as a full-time staff member.”
Serving residents of all ages
Born and raised in Baltimore, Campbell has a passion for public service that took root at a very young age. His parents were deeply involved with the Methodist church, and his grand-parents were officers in the Salvation Army.
“We did a lot of giving back as a family,” he says.
After getting his master’s degree in social work from the University of Maryland, Campbell worked as a community organizer for a foundation funded by Johns Hopkins University. The goal was to strengthen the neighborhood around its campus. He began talking with older adults who lived in the high-rise buildings in the area.
Many said they couldn’t easily get to shopping centers or to doctor appointments, so he worked with them to create the nonprofit Action in Maturity to fill the gap. At first, AIM provided vouchers for taxi rides, then began running a shuttle bus. The organization is still in operation.
Before retiring in 2017, Campbell worked in communications and government relations at Johns Hopkins from 2003 to 2017. He also served as a Maryland state delegate from 1979 to 2003—experience that has proved valuable in his AARP role.
Since becoming state president in 2018, Campbell has successfully advocated for legislation that increased food assistance for older adults, provided utility bill relief for residents and created the state’s Prescription Drug Affordability Board.
In his free time, Campbell enjoys reading, taking long walks and going on hikes with his wife of 16 years. And he still gets involved in hands-on volunteering.
He has organized a Grandparents Day for the Judy Center, a school readiness program that serves lower-income children at Baltimore’s Moravia Park Elementary School. This year, grandparents visited the center for lunch and to distribute books. Both the meal and books were provided by AARP Maryland.
“He’s very supportive,” says Nicole Wood, 35, the center’s coordinator. “He’s always open to listening to our ideas and seeing how AARP can support us.”
AARP’s Carr says Campbell illustrates how volunteers can make an impact. Email email@example.com or call 866-542-8163 to get involved.
Michelle Crouch is a writer living in Charlotte.
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