Tag Archives: West End

Not Exactly Retired 2.0

When Champa and I began pursuing a new life of service and adventure seven years ago, it was easy to combine those two goals by serving in the Peace Corps.

After we returned home in 2018, it got harder. I couldn’t find the right kind of volunteer jobs. The pandemic upended our travel plans. I had medical problems, then recovered.

My sister, a retirement coach, told me to take time to figure things out. She was right; lately the pieces have been falling in place. I’ve been busy with several fulfilling volunteer roles and other activities. We have new trips planned. Our health is good.

Not Exactly Retired 2.0 has become clearer and I like how it looks.

I now spend several hours daily on volunteer work. Some of it is occasional, such as preparing meals at Urban Ministries of Durham or working with OLLI at Duke. Often it’s more sustained, like helping Durham’s West End Community Foundation to review its communications strategy or promote a wonderful new exhibit of local elders. (That’s Durham Mayor Elaine O’Neal, right, and her sisters Eileen and Eunice in the image by Jamaica Gilmer at the top of this post.)

I remain active with both Moldova and the Peace Corps. When Russia invaded Ukraine, I helped raise funds for the Friends of Moldova to assist Ukrainian refugees, working with a local Rotary group. When Congress considered new legislation to support the Peace Corps, I wrote this op-ed article to rally support. I also serve on the steering committee of the North Carolina Peace Corps Association.

At AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP, which encourages older Americans to serve as community volunteers, I’ve been working behind the scenes as its advisory council chair to help strengthen its local program. That’s one of my fellow council members, Jason Peace, in the above photo, right, kicking off a speaker series we recently launched to highlight nonprofits where older Durham residents might serve. He’s describing Meals on Wheels, which he heads. Sarah Cline, our RSVP program manager, left, spoke as well.

Even as I’ve established a satisfying portfolio of volunteer work, I’ve begun planning new trips, which I’ll describe in future posts, and spending time with our family and friends, going to the gym and enjoying life.

Our blend of service, travel and adventure isn’t for everyone but it works for us. (Some older travelers make the two of us look like homebodies.) The central message of my book wasn’t “join the Peace Corps!” but to be intentional about this stage of life, regardless of whether your personal happiness lies with volunteering, starting a business, church, golf or something else. In other words: Choose, don’t drift.

I recognize my own good fortune but also feel part of something bigger. As retirement expert Ken Dychtwald put it, “for the first time in history, large numbers of older individuals are not interested in ‘acting their age’ and retreating to the sidelines. They would rather rebel against ageist stereotypes and be productive and involved — even late blooming — in their maturity.”

The path differs for all of us. I’ve learned over the past few years how hard it can be to find. We may not even know the destination until we’ve made the journey, and then the journey begins again.

Telling the Center’s Story

As we give thanks this week, I want to salute the great work being done in Durham by the West End Community Foundation, Inc., which I’ve been fortunate to volunteer with over the past year.

Dosali Reed-Bandele, the foundation’s executive director, and I worked together to produce an updated website, an e-newsletter, new brochures, a texting service and other communications tools to serve the Community Family Life & Recreation Center at Lyon Park, which the foundation administers. The center is located in a historic building that was previously a school for African American students in Durham’s segregated system.

Photo by Thomas Bell

Dosali took the lead on this work along with her colleagues. As she says in a new article by Jeannine Sato, the year-long project “helped our center tell its story more authentically, about both our history and how we now interact with the community.” She and I are still working together on some remaining tasks.

Photo by Thomas Bell

The article describes the collaboration, which was organized by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership. We hope it will encourage other older volunteers to share their skills with — and learn from — local nonprofits. Both sides stand to benefit, both locally and nationwide, as I’ve discussed previously. It’s an opportunity and unmet social need that I hope to pursue in the year ahead.

Dosali has inspired me throughout this project with her talent and commitment to the community, and she’s helped me broaden my understanding of the city I call home. Thank you, Dosali.

[Read the article here.]