Living Columns & Blogs

Think of all you can do in retirement

Andrea M. Puzycki
Andrea M. Puzycki

Editor’s note: The following is part of the Active Life special section.

At 52, I look ahead to retirement and dream dreams of river cruises through Southern France. My lovely dream only spans 12 of the potential 7,000 days of my 20-year retirement. Spend 3 months in Florida annually? More than 5,000 days remain to perfect my golf swing. Assuming it rains half the days, I have 2,500 days to spare, but what to do?

As project director for the Centre County Retired & Senior Volunteer Program, I witness retirement in many manifestations, and offer here a few remarkable volunteer stories (names have been changed to protect the innocent!).

Sally and Jake

One RSVP couple serve together through their love of nature and the outdoors, and spend part of their collective 600-plus volunteer hours each year traipsing through streams to take water samples with the Pennsylvania Senior Environmental Corps. PASEC is a gathering of motivated people with shared passions and hobbies, using their skills to ensure the quality of our groundwater. In addition to many sites throughout our fly fishing paradise, PASEC teams assist a Lock Haven University professor testing Marcellus Shale area water resources for potential contaminants like strontium and sulfates. PASEC teams have been instrumental in identifying road damage that pollutes our streams, and they witness bears, beavers and butterflies along the way. Sally and Jake are affecting their community together.

Theodora’s story

Theodora arrived in the RSVP office shortly after I started as the Pen Pal Program coordinator. She was a transplant from Kansas, isolated in Centre County. A former teacher, Theodora’s goal was to learn computer skills and secure a part-time office job to supplement her retirement income. We gave her a stack of surveys to translate into Excel, and with a little direction, taught herself how to use the software. Theodora was ready when a veterans program needed a coordinator and accepted the volunteer challenge. Then, using the skills and references she gathered as she volunteered, she secured the part-time office job of her dreams. Theodora credits her “change of course” through volunteering with both her employment and return to good health and stamina.

William’s story

William is a Centre County native who spent all of his 40-year finance career working out of state. Returning in retirement to his family homestead, and with an eye toward giving back to a community he loves, William found the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. He took the training, served two years as a tax preparer and is now running one of the tax sites. William serves about 20 hours per week through the tax season (January to April) and loves taxes because they offer him interesting problems to solve before he heads home to his farm and grandchildren.

Jan, Joseph and James

These three remarkable, retired professionals are responsible for their own volunteer programs. Jan took part in the Intergenerational Leadership Institute at Penn State and is developing an evidence-based after-school tutoring program. James wanted to feed the hungry with nutritious fruits and vegetables and organized the folks around the church coffee pot into a team of strategic growers, harvesters and delivery personnel. These volunteers dedicate part of their garden to food bank produce, and plant and harvest on schedule to provide nutritious produce in manageable amounts to local food banks. Joseph was part of a military VITA program, and in retirement has shared that leadership through Centre County VITA for more than 20 years. Joseph supports the volunteers and serves thousands of low-income families.

Need ideas for your retirement?

Contact RSVP/Senior Corps at Willowbank Office Building, 420 Holmes St., Room 339, Bellefonte, 355-6816. Like us on Facebook at Retired & Senior Volunteer Program of Centre County.

Andrea M. Puzycki is the project director for Centre County Retired & Senior Volunteer Program. She can be reached at ampuzycki@ or 355-6816 (option 2).