With the countless options available for volunteering, helping incredibly diverse populations, how do you find the right fit? This question is one that Lydia Sussman, a 33-year career educator specializing in working with deaf and hard of hearing children, found herself asking before locating L.A. Works’ Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP).
For Lydia, her focus was directed in helping children, but she needed some help to find the right opportunity. Now retired from fulltime employment, her volunteer work needed to help her reach two goals: meeting new and interesting people while making a difference in the lives of others.
Lydia is not alone in her journey. Impact is cited across the nation as the primary factor for having a positive experience when volunteering and the primary motivator for returning to a volunteer project. What is often less recognized are the numerous health benefits received through volunteering.
Volunteering has been shown to “bolsters your immune system, reduces your blood pressure and adds years to your life span,” according to a study from the Corporation for National and Community Service. It also states volunteers report positive changes in their health, both mentally and physically, after volunteering for as little as one year.
In her research, Lydia followed the trend of many retired volunteers—surfing online though the vast web trying to find the right project that spoke to her needs. This led her to the nonprofit L.A. Works and their Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). The team at L.A. Works helped her navigate the countless volunteer opportunities and organizations, catering the experience to Lydia’s needs. With the help of L.A. Works, she was able to connect with other volunteers aged 55 years old and above, as well as to organizations that needed her energy, skills, advice and passion.
Initially, Lydia was connected to an opportunity with Jumpstart where she trained other older adults—some in their 70's and 80's—to go into the community and prepare young children with special needs for pre-school.
In a recent interview, Lydia described her transformative experience and working with other older adults, "I love the passion of these folks - many of them low income themselves. I came to believe so much in the value of Jumpstart that I have joined its Advisory Board. I even make calls to recruit new volunteers!”
Lydia's advice for the first time retired volunteer is "Try it out, you can always find another volunteer role if one doesn't work for you." A real benefit for any retiree who volunteers is the exposure to training and to on-going coaching. It's rare that a new volunteer needs to be an expert coming into a nonprofit, and many learn new professional skills through their service.
If you are looking to supercharge your volunteer time, control how many hours you give, and pick the places where you serve, volunteering with L.A. Works RSVP may be the perfect fit for you. Lydia transformed her life and commitment to local causes and connecting with RSVP was her first step. Find your next passion at L.A. Works RSVP, you’ll be surprised at where it will take you.