By Hayley Hervieux
When it comes to volunteering, Charlene Hunter James will take any challenge. For the various organizations she works with--including AARP, The Links and Texas Children’s Hospital--she’s an inspiration.
Always interested in volunteering and community work, Charlene earned a master's degree in public health from the University of Texas. She worked for the Houston health department for much of her career, eventually becoming the director of the local Area Agency on Aging.
In this role, she began to work closely with AARP in Houston; when she retired, she started volunteering for the Association. She is a member of the AARP Texas Executive Council, a group of volunteers who review strategic plans and give input as well as acting as the voice of AARP in their communities.
“I really enjoy advocacy, so that was a perfect fit for me,” she says, “I like advocating for the aging population and issues that face older adults.”
For Charlene, Social Security and Medicare take precedence.
“The issues of Social Security and Medicare are near and dear to my heart because so many older adults depend on them. We have to spend more time helping them fully understand the programs," she says. "So often, adult children end up taking care of their parents, and only then start to learn about Social Security and Medicare issues.”
Charlene is also driven to work on local issues: making Houston more livable, educating Houstonians about their health and long-term care options, and working with diverse communities on issues that affect them. As a volunteer, she is able to push for issues that are important to her, to her community, and to the the different organizations she serves with.
Charlene speaks with a smile as she talks about her volunteer work as a baby holder at Texas Children’s Hospital, where she interacts with infants who just need someone to comfort them when their families can’t be there. She has been doing this for a few years, and enjoys it not only because of the opportunity to interact with infants, but because she can learn about different programs at the hospital.
Charlene is incredibly interested in medical issues facing the community – she also volunteers with The Links, a women’s volunteer organization founded on ideas of friendship and community service. The organization is interested in addressing chronic health problems, and Charlene has been working with them with a focus on heart disease prevention.
“Any time you get a chance to go out in the community and be of service, that’s what I enjoy,” Charlene says of her various volunteer projects.
Indeed, she is an incredibly busy and active woman in her community. With all of this work it’s hard to imagine that she has a lot of free time, but Charlene enjoys going on short weekend trips with her husband in and around the Houston area. One recent detour took them to see some of Texas’ Painted Churches, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Throughout April, we’re profiling some people that you need to meet in honor of National Volunteer Month. We'd like you to meet: