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Volunteer

Jorge Quiroga, who retired in 2018 after more than 40 years as a reporter for Boston’s WCVB Channel 5, is putting his knowledge of state issues to work as a volunteer for AARP Massachusetts. 

“I got to see every corner of the state, from Beacon Hill to the Berkshires, from Codman Square to Ayer,” says Quiroga, 70, of Newton. “You get a sense of the needs that a cross section of the communities have.” 

Quiroga serves on AARP Massachusetts’ Executive Council and has especially done outreach to the Latino community. 

He has recorded public service announcements in English and Spanish on voting and COVID-19 vaccinations and moderated a panel on food insecurity.

“I’m incredibly impressed by the positive impact that AARP has working on issues that affect people over 50,” he says.

Quiroga is one of more than 900 AARP Massachusetts volunteers who pitch in on everything from helping children learn to read to advocating at the state capitol on issues such as nursing home reform and lower prescription drug prices. They also prepare tax returns for free and lead workshops on topics like driver safety and decluttering.

“Volunteers play a huge part in what we do. They are involved in everything,” says Kelli Lefler, senior program specialist at AARP Massachusetts, who recruits, trains and supports them.

Making a difference

Sandra Harris, 71, volunteer state president of AARP Massachusetts, got involved several years ago, after attending a Life Reimagined program. Harris, who had led an interior design firm that specialized in senior living, volunteers with the age-friendly project in her hometown of Boston, to help make the city more welcoming and accessible to all. 

“There’s satisfaction in knowing I’m helping make a difference in someone’s life,” Harris says.

She has focused on combating social isolation and loneliness, which researchers have linked to health conditions like depression, heart disease and dementia. The pandemic highlighted the problem, says Harris, who  started and cochairs the AARP Massachusetts Task Force to End Loneliness & Build Community. It created #ReachOutMa to urge connections with older adults and others living alone. 

Lenore Klein, 74, of Brookline, became an AARP Massachusetts volunteer after retiring from a career in the banking industry.

“It’s so important to keep my mind active, and as a volunteer, I have a sense of being part of a community,” says Klein, who trains presenters for AARP Speakers Bureau events. “It’s really been a way of connecting with others.”

The time commitment for volunteers is flexible, from a few hours a month to more, Lefler says. “We know they are busy, and one of the great things about volunteering with us is that it’s not like you have a set shift.” 

Even with pandemic restrictions lifting, some events will still be virtual because of convenience, she says.

On Wednesday, Oct. 13, from 10 to 11:30 a.m., AARP Massachusetts will host an online “Volunteering 101” session. Register at aarp.cvent.com/Volunteer101. For more information, check aarp.org/ma, email ma@aarp.org or call 866-448-3621.  

Go to aarp.org/nearyou to learn about all virtual and in-person events.

Jill Gambon is a writer living in West Newbury, Mass.

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