Retirement……it ain’t what it used to be.

Back in the day, as the saying goes, retirement was thought of as a chance to finally kick back, play golf or bridge to your heart’s content, putter around the house and enjoy whatever hobbies you might have and of course rock on the front porch. While that still may be a part of it for some, most retirees nowadays have another avocation to which they devote time, volunteering. I know several of you readers fall into that category.

I’m certainly no exception to that trend. At one time or another since 2008, when I officially retired from work; defined as that which comes with some form of remuneration, I have worked several volunteer “jobs” that paid nothing, except for a warm feeling of satisfaction that I might be making a difference in someone’s life.

I took on endeavors such as “Literacy for Adults”; “Computers for Kids”; redesigning my church’s website; driving disabled vets to and from the Veterans Hospital, 70 miles away; making appointment reminder phone calls at the local Veterans’ Medical Clinic; Legal Aid and working as a guide in the Trail Center at First Landing State Park. I guess I could also count helping my wife with her volunteer job as Regional Director of the Epilepsy Foundation of Virginia. I only help with a few logistical things and serve as her “IT guy” when computer problems crop up, but every bit helps.

In spite of all this, due to my ever-increasing hearing impairment, I have had to give up almost all of these enterprises. One that I have thankfully been able to stay with is administrative volunteer in the Adult Education department at the Norfolk Botanical  Garden.

Someone lost in the Azalea Garden at NBG

I mostly help with data entry, updating various reports and instructor contracts and keeping monthly student figures current. It’s something I enjoy doing and it doesn’t require a lot of back and forth communications.

Sometimes I even take on the look of my former executive working days……

But sad to say, I sometimes revert back into retirement mode……

The people I work with are terrific employees, with personalities very similar to mine, and very forgiving of my need to often request them to repeat things I didn’t quite understand. Not to mention they all have a great sense of humor, so there is a lot of kidding back and forth the one day a week I am there.  In fact, we have so much fun together that they have designated every Tuesday as “Al Day.” I have suggested that since it is Al Day, I should get it off, but that hasn’t gotten very far.

I can give you a great example of how close this group really is. Every Halloween, the various departments have a contest, each picking a theme to which they dress up. Since this year’s Halloween fell on an Al Day, I was cajoled into being the wizard for the Wizard of Oz theme. I was hesitant at first, since at my age I’m already scary enough, but these gals are persuasive! Below you can see the results of their efforts. It turned out to be a great time and they won the trophy!

I would be remiss if I didn’t give additional mention to the Volunteer Coordinator. In any given year, he has the difficult task of co-ordinating over 1000 volunteers to help with the daily tasks working out in the garden itself, as well as in the many departments that support it. Volunteer needs also include the dozen or so special events that the garden puts on each year.

Let’s see, now where did I put those volunteers?

The perks of working here are many fold. There’s volunteer discounts on some events as well as at the gift shop. Other local attractions such as the Norfolk Zoo and the Virginia Aquarium give reciprocal discount to Garden volunteers. But probably the best perk is, after work, getting in a walk around the beautiful grounds of this magnificent place. I hope you will click on the link above to see all that this garden has to offer.

A forest of crepe myrtle trees during  a spring day sunrise.

And please, leave a comment and let me know some of the things you do as a volunteer, retired or not. It would be neat to hear if we have any in common.