Putting my expertise to good use in retirement

It’s raining today, but that’s a welcome change from the bitter cold of last week. And the snow is finally melting. That snow has kept us from dealing with the fallen leaves on the deck. So, someone will have some yard work to do today. But not me.

Today I get to read with preschoolers. Once a week I pack up a bag of books and a stack of stickers to drive ten minutes to one of the preschools run by the Boys and Girls Club of Truckee Meadows. It’s the highlight of my week and is definitely my favorite volunteer gig.

As a retired elementary school teacher and reading specialist, a classroom is my natural habitat, my happy place. And when our granddaughter was small I liked nothing more than volunteering in her classrooms, helping with any tasks the teacher needed. I even demonstrated that old dogs can indeed learn new tricks when I helped teach writing lessons to 4th and 5th graders via Zoom during the pandemic. But as grandgirl aged up, whatever “cool” I had diminished substantially. When I asked her if I should volunteer at her middle school, she hesitantly answered, “Well, maybe in the library?”

Well, maybe not.

My skills, knowledge, and expertise are best utilized interacting with books and little kids. It’s where my heart is.

This masked grandma with a new friend during COVID restrictions.

About that time, I discovered quite by chance that a teacher I knew from my years as a reading specialist was a member of Assistance League of Reno-Sparks. Their Read to ME program sends grandmas into preschools to read with kids. Bingo! I became a member in the fall of 2020 and a “Reading Grandma” shortly thereafter.

Of course, Assistance League does more than read to kids. Every month we also give hundreds of books to babies and preschoolers to take home and keep. Our eleven other philanthropies support children, teachers, the elderly, veterans, and victims of abuse in our community. All that good work is supported by donors, shoppers, and volunteers at our fabulous Thrift Shop.

Our non-profit organization “employs” hundreds of mostly retired volunteers who have a wealth of experience in retail, finance, business, marketing, logistics, law, IT, hospitality, education, parenting, arts, medicine, government, and management. And more.

All of this is my way of encouraging other retirees to find some way of utilizing their gifts to help others. I believe that it is especially important if you’ve recently moved to a new community and don’t have many friends yet. Volunteering will help you make connections and find meaning in this next chapter of your life. And I have a hunch it will improve your mental health as well. A win-win!

So, as the new year begins, take a moment or two to examine your time and your talents. Seek out opportunities to put them to use in your community. Perhaps you’ll discover that your volunteer gig is the highlight of your week too.

And I guarantee it’s more fun than raking those soggy leaves.

2 thoughts on “Putting my expertise to good use in retirement

  1. How wonderful! My wife was a preschool teacher and later director of the same preschool. We both were involved with education for 31 years. I miss reading to children, but my latest gig is reading to seniors at assisted living.

    By the way, we honeymooned at Northstar in Truckee and Lake Tahoe. I think it’s one of the most beautiful spots on Earth.

    Liked by 1 person

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