AARP Texas President John Vasquez remarked on the rewards of volunteering with AARP. The following are his comments.
AARP is a unique blend of staff and volunteers. Staff provide expertise and coordination of activities while volunteers support the mission of AARP through their service projects, advocacy and community involvement. Together, staff and volunteers have improved the lives of seniors around the country and in their community.
What you might not realize is that your volunteer work benefits both your community and your own well-being.
Common sense tells us that volunteering provides a sense of belonging, purpose and worth. What may not be so apparent is how volunteering makes us feel better.
By volunteering, we make contact with persons who share similar interests. In other words, we have the opportunity to make friends with persons with whom we can easily converse. In a world in which making friends is often difficult, this can be quite appealing.
Volunteering also offers us the opportunity to increase our knowledge, learn new skills and learn from others. AARP engages in a tremendous amount of research and produces informative papers and articles from this research. AARP also provides opportunities to grow skills, such as gardening, healthy cooking and using computers. And, if you have difficulties, other volunteers are often around to provide help and expertise.
AARP also provides an outlet for volunteers to develop their confidence. If you are interested, you might volunteer to lead a community project or be an advocate before your city council or county commissioners.
How we volunteer has changed over the last year. While the need for volunteers has never been greater, the risk of exposure to Covid-19 by contact with others is heightened. Early on, AARP canceled volunteer events to protect our volunteers. Meetings and gatherings became virtual, and volunteers struggled with new technological workarounds such as Zoom, Facebook Live and Teams.
Now, with the distribution of vaccines, volunteers see hope for a return to in-person events and gatherings. But our experience with the pandemic will affect how and when we convene. After a year using Zoom and Facebook Live, the benefits of those tools are apparent. Likely, AARP will continue using these tools for future events that are suitable and extend our reach to those who might not be able to participate in person.
Perhaps sometime later this year, when it is safe to do so, volunteers will meet in person. Maybe we will gather wearing facemasks and greeting each other with elbow bumps. Later, as we all become comfortable volunteer meetings will look like they used to, but with some volunteers participating virtually.
When that happens, we will be happy that we made it through the pandemic and that brighter days lie ahead. There is still so much to do.
To learn more about volunteering with AARP, visit aarp.org/volunteer or call 866-687-2227.