At age 96, Fred Egley is not your average volunteer. In addition to spearheading two World War II memorials in Norfolk, Nebraska, Fred has been an active volunteer with his church, from fundraising to painting the exterior when he was in his 80s. And, Fred has volunteered in nearly every capacity with Norfolk Area United Way since its inception in 1965. This United Way awarded Fred its “Spirit of Volunteerism” award in 2010. I’m told that Fred is one of those volunteers who works tirelessly and gets the job done, with a big smile.
I am so inspired when I hear about volunteers like Fred, so I was especially excited to attend a White House event spotlighting seniors' leadership in community service. Underscoring the impact of senior citizens who are making remarkable contributions to their communities, the event included individuals and groups associated with Senior Corps. Administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), Senior Corps counts more than 330,000 volunteers age 55 and over who are serving through three key programs: Foster Grandparents, Senior Companions, and RSVP.
Many United Ways around the country participate in the RSVP program. It is America’s largest volunteer network for people age 55 and over. In addition to helping seniors find volunteer opportunities, RSVP offers participants supplemental insurance and mileage reimbursement. At the White House, Jon Carson, deputy assistant to the President and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, said, “Americans 55 and over are a national resource that can be mobilized to service communities across America.” Our seniors are not only a national resource, they are a national treasure. CNCS estimates that 18.7 million older adults – nearly a quarter of those 55 and older – contributed on average more than three billion hours of service in their communities per year between 2008 and 2010. The yearly economic benefit of this service to the nation equals more than $64 billion.
Whether you are young, older, or in between, when you volunteer, you’re not just helping others—you’re helping yourself. Volunteering leads to new discoveries and new friends. Plus, studies show that volunteering helps you live longer and promotes a positive outlook on life. Don’t believe me? Just ask Fred!