Senior Volunteers, but not the Retiring Type

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This month we're turning the spotlight on a group of volunteers who are still serving at ages when most of us plan to put our feet up and relax a little. In honor of their devotion to service during their senior years, let's take a moment to recognize their volunteer efforts during Older Americans Month.

Toddlers Win Over Foster Grandparent

Even though she spent 27 years working as a cashier at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC, Sadie Queen didn't have the opportunity to work with children a lot – until now.

When she retired, Queen connected with the Foster Grandparents Program and Maryland's St. Ann's Infant and Maternity Home in the easiest way possible. She called and asked if she could help.

“I didn't want to sit here every day, and it's right next door,” said Queen. “I thought I would never work with children, but I do.”

The 72-year-old helps out for five hours a day at the day care at St. Ann's, which also provides residential care and other services to the most vulnerable women and children in the community.

Queen has adjusted to the activity level of the little ones during the 11 years she has served at St. Ann's, but she admits that helping with the toddlers “can be rough sometimes.” Some of the people she started with in the Foster Grandparent Program have dropped out for various reasons, but Queen is still serving and enjoys setting up the kids' snacks every day.

“The 2-year-olds are kinda cute and I like them,” said Queen. “They run to you when you get there.”

“I think I'll stay,” she said with a smile in her voice.

Volunteer has a Lifetime of Service

Phyllis Berry of Copley, OH, has been volunteering since she was in her 40s, starting when her second son entered the fifth grade. The former schoolteacher began her life as a volunteer at the local children's hospital, since she always wanted to work with kids. When she left 25 years later, she had accumulated about 25,000 years of volunteer service.

The seven-year member of the RSVP of Summit County, OH, has been an active participant in her retirement village since her arrival in 2003 and is still the perfect ambassador for her community at 95 years old.

“We have a beautiful place here,” said Barry. “Anyone who sits around doing nothing is crazy.”

No one will ever accuse Phyllis of doing nothing. She serves as a greeter for her retirement community, introducing others to the services and amenities available there. She also works in the deli; helps in the convenience store; and has been a companion for other seniors in the community, visiting others regularly and writing notes to lift their sprits.

“I like to be busy,” said Barry. “I like to be productive.”

Along with bridge groups and the swimming pool, Phyllis also likes to participate in the gym classes offered there, where the instructor “puts you through the works.”

She doesn't have any health problems and was scheduled to participate in a community fashion show a few days after our interview, adding, “I don't want to be a model, but they keep dragging me in.”

“Since I'm healthy they call me unique,” said Barry. “I don't mind being called unique.”

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