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There’s a Volunteering Niche that Fits You

Columbia City resident Terry Vertrice Almon is among the 100 Hoosiers who use their skills to volunteer for AARP. Photo by Zach Dobson

By Nancy Johnson • Terry Vertrice Almon spent more than two decades in management at a worldwide cosmetics company. Today she uses skills she learned as a trainer and meeting planner in a new field: volunteering for AARP.

Almon, 76, said she loves being able to use her professional experience and people skills as a member of AARP Indiana’s legislative team, advocating for older residents, and as a volunteer distributing AARP information at senior fairs and health expos.

Statehouse advocate

In March, the Columbia City resident added a new experience: testifying at the Statehouse about a proposed deal that would put natural gas utility customers on the hook, in the form of higher bills, for a company’s financial losses.

“I testified how rate increases would affect seniors who live on a fixed income,” she said. “It may be only $5 or $10 a month, but when you are balancing that checkbook, that amount can be traumatic.”

Almon is among the more than 100 AARP Indiana volunteers who use their skills and expertise for the benefit of those 50-plus. Other Hoosiers volunteer in different ways.

For instance, Dick Huber, 76, of Greenwood, likes to teach. He found his niche as an instructor for the AARP Driver Safety classes.

“My goal is keeping older drivers safe on the road,” he said. Huber is in his 10th year showing people age 50 and older how to brush up on driving skills and compensate for age-related changes in vision, hearing and reaction time.

“Because some seniors are on several medications, in class we talk about how medications interact with one another and affect your driving performance,” said the retired physician.

Joe Everett, 61, of Indianapolis, is a member of the AARP Indiana Executive Council. He also participates in the legislative team, moderates You’ve Earned a Say community meetings on how to strengthen Social Security and Medicare, and serves as a presenter at AARP Ready for Retirement financial planning seminars.

Everett brings his expertise from working in public affairs at the Social Security Administration until his retirement in 2007.  “I like the causes AARP represents, such as Social Security, Medicare, financial planning and caregiving. Those issues are important to me and for other people in my age bracket,” he said.

While some volunteer opportunities, such as AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, take a few months per year, others like AARP Driver Safety go year-round but allow volunteer instructors to decide when and where to schedule classes. Not all projects require serious time commitments. Some volunteers work at one-day events such as health fairs, where they take two- or three-hour shifts. Volunteers also help at You’ve Earned a Say and Ready for Retirement sessions, which last a couple of hours.

People who like office tasks can sort flyers, bundle brochures or stuff envelopes. Some volunteering can be done from home: Those who sign up for the Rapid Responder advocacy team contact lawmakers on policy issues and distribute emails to other volunteers.

AARP provides any needed training and reimburses some expenses.

Filling a need

Fort Wayne resident Curt Sylvester, 70, AARP Indiana state president, said he hopes more people will volunteer in both leadership and support roles. “Everyone has something [to offer], no matter their job, education or location,” he said.

As for Almon, volunteering benefits her as much as it helps others. It “really fulfills a need in me,” she said.

To find out more about volunteering with AARP, call 866-448-3618 toll-free.

Nancy Johnson is a writer living in Granger, Ind.

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