Giving Back in Retirement

When we talk to our clients about what they plan on doing during retirement, many have a fairly long “bucket list”. Travel is often near the top of the list, as is donating time towards a cause they are passionate about. As we have found out through the experiences of a few of our clients, these two items don’t have to be mutually exclusive. These retirees have found a way to combine these two goals in some pretty interesting ways that we think are worth sharing. They may even inspire you!

Our first story is about Dave, who retired with his wife to Arizona after a long career as a software engineer. He and his wife were very happy living in the Southwest and being close to family. Through a connection in their church, Dave had the opportunity to join an Early Response Team (ERT) that provides assistance to disaster victims. Early on in this volunteering experience he had the opportunity to become certified as a chainsaw operator and participate with dead tree removal from areas that were severely affected by forest fires. He jumped at the chance. Dave has been involved with this work for the last five years and has been to Colorado, Washington State and California. His most meaningful experience was working at the Buckhorn Methodist Camp west of Fort Collins, CO that had been severely affected by the High Park forest fire in 2012. For two weeks in the late spring of each year and again in early fall his team of about 5 sawyers (wood cutters) would cut about 1,000 dead trees each trip. Dave says that each day the group would return dead tired, hungry and dirty but feeling really good about the work they accomplished.  After the first year the camp was able to reopen on a limited basis.  After the 5th year you could not tell there had been a forest fire. Dave says the experiences have been very gratifying and an experience that he never imagined he would have during retirement.

Another client of ours, “Charles” and “Diane”, decided to combine travel and volunteering during their retirement. Each year they set off from Massachusetts in their camper to assist with home rebuilding projects in areas that have been hit hard by natural disasters. They started off in New Orleans and have since traveled to Columbia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Their role the first year was as volunteers helping pound nails and paint walls. This has since evolved into their participating as site supervisors and laying the groundwork for the volunteers to be able to come and provide the necessary assistance. They’ve also been able to use some of the technical knowledge they gained during their careers. While on assignment, they make an effort to experience the local culture and make friends with as many people as possible which leads to a whole other set of experiences. As an example, after visiting a church one Sunday morning and mentioning that he dabbled with playing the piano, Charles was tapped to be the organist at the local church for the rest of his trip.   His feeling is that “one of the joys of these trips is getting immersed in the culture and getting to know the people. I’m not sure that a standard vacation would afford us those opportunities.” We think he’s right.

As you start to form your own bucket list of things to do during retirement, check out the following sites for a list of possible volunteer opportunities www.retiredbrains.com/volunteering.html  and www.volunteermatch.org.

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