Over 80 and Volunteering…Why?
By Betty, Proud Volunteer at Volunteer Alexandria
A poet/songwriter said “Oh, how I hate to get up in the morning…Oh, how I hate to get out of bed. But the hardest blow of all is to hear the bugler call, ‘You’ve got get up, you’ve got to get up, you’ve got to get up! It’s morning…’” That’s my midnight serenade every Wednesday evening as I drift off to sleep. You see, Thursday is my volunteer day at Volunteer Alexandria, here in my hometown, and though my heart is willing, the lure of sleeping-in till the sun peeks over my window sill is very strong.

On Thursday mornings I wake to the sound of bells. My first sleepy thought is it’s the ice-cream truck calling his customers, but no, the truck hasn’t been around in years. It’s my baby Ben alarm clock screaming at my conscience. I jump (or maybe limp) out of bed, begin to dress, make the coffee, create a brown bag lunch, go to the paint pots to brush a rosy glow upon my cheeks and rush to make my schedule of leaving home at 8:30 AM to be on the job on time. Now, a promise made is a debt unpaid, and I committed myself to volunteer on Thursdays at Volunteer Alexandria.
Perhaps I should mention that I am a retired domestic administrator and I am 85 years old. My navy man father called me a “chief cook and bottle washer”. With a handsome ex-marine sweetheart for a husband, and the speedy arrival of seven little critters, there was plenty of cooking and mucho bottles to wash so my life’s map seemed pretty clear. With so many children in different school locations, and being a stay at home mother, I was always busy volunteering for lunch time and recess duty to give teachers a down time to eat their lunch in peace. Time flies and life’s ups and downs happen. My sweetheart is long gone now to a better place and my little ones have long ago developed lives on their own, as it should be. Like Christopher Columbus, we keep sailing on and on through shine and storm.
So now on each reluctant Thursday morning, I open my door, sprint down the hall to the elevator and notice that I’ve got a surprisingly unusual pep in my step! As I drive ‘Old Bessie’ out of the garage and join the fast moving commuter flow of cars down one-way Prince Street, I notice that I feel strong, almost electric and unafraid. Their wheels are humming in unison and my wheels are humming too. Stop-go, left turn-right turn, red light, green light. The golden sun flickers bright in between the tall colonial houses and I put on my shades…I feel so alive!
The women I work with here are very gentle to me. I stated on my first day on the job that I would happily do any kind of work they wanted me to try except follow and clean up after the mules! I thought it was hilariously funny but they just gave me soft, sad smiles. I am the receptionist and I enjoy greeting every person who enters our doors. I guide them to the person who can help them with their needs, answer all incoming calls, count a thousand pamphlets and papers, cut and bundle paint rags used by other volunteers who paint and sand, trim and weed around the City and help in ways that I can’t even imagine.
Wouldn’t you enjoy more pep in your step again? Wouldn’t you like some extra hum and zing and jango in your life again? Volunteering is one good way to get it. Come on…Try it! You’ll like it. Oh, and by the way, don’t spread around the 85 year old part…one morning, Prince Charming might come into our office and smile and I might smile too…and after all, I’ve been told I don’t look a day over 84! Whopee!
Volunteer Alexandria hosts the RSVP Northern Virginia, a regional volunteer program providing individualized support to connect adults 55+ with service opportunities that impact local needs and result in healthy and vibrant communities. RSVP-Northern Virginia is a local partnership sponsored by Volunteer Fairfax, Volunteer Alexandria and Volunteer Arlington. For details and to volunteer, call 703-836-2176 or visit www.VolunteerAlexandria.org. If you call on a Thursday, you might even get to talk to Betty!