Retirees fill time, give back through volunteering


Many recent retirees, eager to find fulfilling activities that provide social engagement, are participating in the plethora of local volunteering opportunities available in Southcentral Pennsylvania.

In 2017, John Fry, of Fayetteville, had just retired from a long career in program management developing satellite networks.

“Originally I was looking for something to keep me busy during the winter when there’s no golf,” Fry said.

It was then that he connected with the AARP Tax Aide Program, which provides Pennsylvania and Maryland residents with tax preparation services, focusing on low- and moderate-income senior citizens.

“It’s fulfilling to help people that really need help,” Fry said. “It’s a great feeling and it’s educational—it helps me better understand the tax code and that helps me do my own taxes.”

Fry’s volunteer efforts extend well beyond the tax aide program. He also volunteers for the local chapter of Trout Unlimited, a national conservation group; serves as a C&O National Park bike patrol officer; and is a member of the Knights of Columbus in Waynesboro.

But the tax aide program receives most of Fry’s attention during the fall and winter, ramping up in October, with training and orientation sessions and running until mid-April, when tax season winds down.

Roger Schwalm, who coordinates the Chambersburg IRS/AARP Tax Aide Program, says volunteers are always needed.

“Like most organizations that provide free assistance, our capabilities are directly related to the volunteer force that supports it,” Schwalm said. “We are always looking for volunteers to staff the phone center, where appointments are made, facilitators to greet clients and help them with their paperwork, and counselors that actually do the taxes.” 

The work is tremendously gratifying. “At the end of the tax season, even if tired, we have that glow of knowing we’ve done something really good for our community,” Schwalm admitted.

Through volunteering, retirees can establish new social connections, replacing friendships and relationships that may have been lost or diminished by retirement. Volunteers can also leverage their life/work experience and give back to their community.

Studies have shown that volunteering has tangible health benefits too. Volunteers often cite a feeling that they are living a purposeful life. They tend to be physically active and mentally sharp. And they generally have a more optimistic view of the world.  

Many retirees find that volunteering is addictive – experiencing the feeling of giving back leads to a desire to do even more.

Neil Ober has found fulfillment as a volunteer supporting several organizations. He retired from Kodak after 33 years and immersed himself in community service while he and his wife, Mary Ann, were living in North Carolina.

Upon moving to Pennsylvania in 2020, Ober sought out Laurie Woods, director of volunteer engagement at WellSpan Waynesboro Hospital. He went through the required background checks and briefing sessions and found himself assigned to the wound clinic, helping to orient new patients, sanitize rooms, and replenish and stock supplies.

“It’s very satisfying to help patients feel at ease,” Ober said.

The 81-year-old also finds it invigorating to be around staff and patients who are younger than he is. “That makes me feel younger as well,” he added.

Ober is energetic and passionate about his causes. In addition to his hospital duties, he also participates in the Chambersburg Meals-on-Wheels program as a deliverer and a board member. Plus, he serves as an ombudsman and advocate for long-term care patients in the area.

“Volunteering is in my blood,” Ober said. “I’ve been volunteering in one way or another for many years.”

Another local volunteer opportunity is the Home Delivered Meals program through the Franklin County Agency on Aging.

This program prepares and delivers meals to homebound seniors. The department has eight senior activity centers in the county. Home Delivered Meals is just one of the many senior services available through the agency.

In Mont Alto, nutritional meals are packaged and delivered by volunteers at the Mont Alto Senior Activity Center.

“Our drivers get to see first-hand the impact on the people we are helping,” said Danielle Henry, senior center coordinator at the Mont Alto center. “Many of these seniors live alone, and our volunteers may be the only personal connection they regularly have.”

Franklin County residents aged 60 and up who are able can come to the center Monday through Friday for these meals, while those who are homebound and are interested in receiving meals may contact the Area Agency on Aging to verify eligibility for home delivery.

Mont Alto’s Home Delivered Meals program supports residents in Mont Alto and surrounding areas, and volunteers are always needed.

For those that have an interest in volunteering, opportunities are abundant in our area. Any retiree with interest might consider the following organizations:

Arts Alliance of Greater Waynesboro; The Instutute; Habitat for Humanity of Franklin County; Renfrew Museum and Park; Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Franklin County; Antietam Humane Society; Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter; or your local library.

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