Professional volunteers


By Lee Scott

What happens to a person when they retire? I was pondering this question earlier this fall when I attended the Friends of the Beaufort County Library book sale at the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. As my husband and I walked around the endless tables filled with history books, cook books, fiction and non-fiction, we had a chance to talk to the volunteers.

The entire team there had such energy and enthusiasm for the book sale and thanked us for supporting the fundraiser.  It was interesting to discover that many of these volunteers  came  to the Beaufort community from all over the United States. A majority of them were Baby Boomers who came here after working in their professions for 30 or 40 years; professions that defined them. When I asked a few of them what they did before retiring, their responses were, “I used to be … (fill in the blank)”  a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher, a business owner or a soldier.

The truth is that just because someone has stopped practicing a profession doesn’t mean they have stopped being that professional. Doctors don’t stop being doctors and lawyers don’t stop being lawyers. We can’t disregard the years of education, training and experience that come with any career.   Thankfully, all that talent does not disappear when the paycheck stops.

We are lucky to be living in an area with so many “unpaid professionals” who contribute  unpaid volunteer hours to our community. According to the Volunteering in America  website, www.volunteeringinamerica.gov, South Carolina registered 133.4 million hours of volunteer service in 2013.

There is an incredible amount of talent working without pay to help strengthen our community. Many nonprofits, for example Friends of Caroline Hospice, Habitat for Humanity and multiple local churches, depend on these professionals.

And  many  of the veterans who return to this area donate their unpaid hours  to military-related nonprofit organizations such as The Wounded Warrior Project and Wreaths across America.

It is very clear to me that the volunteers in our community are not “used to bees” — they are vibrant individuals translating all that energy and  knowledge to help improve our community. Retirement has a whole new look to it now.

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