Volunteers can provide several reasons for giving their time and energy to help others: Pay back for help they once received, a sense of accomplishment, and more. For Maureen Smith her reason is simple: “It makes me feel good,” said the 68-year-old Kalamazoo resident. “It makes me happy that I can help people.”
A Benton Harbor native, Maureen retired from AT&T in Kalamazoo in 2006 and started volunteering with kids through the Foster Grandparent Program of Senior Services of Southwest Michigan. She left Michigan two years later and moved to Mississippi where she began volunteering with a RSVP program there that provided tax advice through AARP. Her role there was to become a familiar one over the next several years: she loved working as a greeter, meeting people as they came for help and direct them to the proper place. In 2015 she was asked to volunteer as a greeter at the Mississippi Visitor Center in Meridian. “We would provide coffee, maps and other services,” she said.
In 2016 she moved back to Michigan to help her sister who had had heart surgery. “I left all that good old warmth in Mississippi, but I came back to help my sister,” she said. Back in Kalamazoo and now living near her son, two grandsons and five great-grandchildren, she joined RSVP at Senior Services where she again became a greeter for the AARP Tax Aid program. “Maureen has that special touch with people”, says Traci Furman, RSVP Coordinator, “when she greeted people into Senior Services for tax assistance it was as if she was inviting them into her home. It’s that kindness that makes a difference in a person’s experience.”
She had hoped to help a senior companion program or drive in a delivery program, but the pandemic interrupted her desires. “I was sad that I couldn’t volunteer for those programs, but I enjoy what I do now. I just want to try and be very pleasant and treat people with respect. The Lord gives me purpose every day and He knows He has me.” As life continues to open back up, we look forward to welcoming Maureen back into the regular day to day volunteering opportunities here at Senior Services.
RSVP – Your Invitation to Volunteer – is a program of Senior Services of Southwest Michigan. RSVP offers placement assistance and support for people age 55 and better to volunteer. Membership is free and opportunities exist in Kalamazoo County and a few in Calhoun County. Volunteers are needed with Meals on Wheels, Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes, Senior Services Home Repair, and more. Regular, flexible schedules available. Contact RSVP at 269-382-0515 or www.seniorservices1.org. This story was adapted from a piece written by Bill Krasean, Senior Services RSVP Advisory Council Volunteer.