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AARP AARP States Virginia Volunteering

News Schmooze event brings storytellers together

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Brian Jacks, AARP Virginia associate state director
Lisa Hoyt

Do you like to write? Enjoy photography? Are you a story teller? Like minded folks and current AARP volunteers gathered at the Glenvar Library in Roanoke County recently, for the AARP Virginia Virtual Volunteer Newsroom’s “News Schmooze” luncheon.

Brian Jacks, associate state director, opened the information session by welcoming participants with a brief overview of AARP’s mission before asking participants to introduce themselves. Attendees also included state President Joyce Williams, three current SWVA volunteers, two potential volunteers and, via Zoom, Ginger Thompson, AARP Virginia communications manager.

Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, a former California educator, made an appearance through the voice of Joyce Williams who summed up Ethel’s drive, mission and desire for advocacy which led her to create two national organizations that provide support to older Americans to achieve independence, purpose and dignity: the National Retired Teachers Association and the American Association of Retired Persons (now AARP).

Thompson explained what the roles of a virtual volunteer can be and how monthly online meetings establish assignments. The Virtual Volunteer Newsroom currently meets on the first Tuesday of the month, at 11 a.m. via Zoom. Attendance is encouraged, but not mandated as personal schedules vary.

The four AARP Virginia districts associate state directors submit their top three requests for Newsroom coverage, and meeting attendees volunteer to cover those assignments. A follow up email outlines which assignments were decided at the meeting and which assignments still need coverage. Submitted articles are reviewed by volunteer editors who have decades of journalistic experience between them.

The Newsroom is in need of journalists, photographers and videographers from all regions of the state. While AARP has returned to in person events, there are many virtual events which can be covered by any Newsroom volunteer in the state. If assigned to an in-person event, mileage, meals and expenses can be reimbursed.

A potential volunteer attendee asked about the expected length of articles (500-1,200 words), as well as the circulation of the newsletter in which articles are published (185,000 emailed newsletters in Virginia, 65,000 emailed newsletters in SWVA). Deadlines were outlined as being seven days after an event, and one to two weeks for a feature article.

Another potential volunteer inquired about the possibility of college students becoming Newsroom volunteers for the experience. (The answer was yes!)

Volunteers are not just limited to assigned events or suggested topics, but are encouraged to propose stories that they have first-hand interest in or knowledge of. One volunteer recently suggested that when attending a milestone high school reunion, he could interview classmates asking if they were now where they thought they would be fifty years ago? (Or not).

In addition to covering events, regular community and volunteer “Spotlight” stories are assigned to share, honor and appreciate individuals or communities that have contributed to AARP. Subject interviews do not have to be done in person, technology can assist. 

A delicious lunch was enjoyed following the question-and-answer segment.

If you missed this event and would like more information regarding the Virtual Newsroom, contact Ginger Thompson for more information: AARP Virginia 804-344-3061.


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Volunteers learn about the volunteer newsroom.
Lisa Hoyt

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