By Richard Eisenberg
I admire the young volunteers’ ability to lift heavy furniture and take sledgehammers to break up damaged pieces for disposal. We older ones help direct traffic of the donors and recipients, prepare receipts, lug boxes and bags and, OK, kibitz with each other. In between deliveries and pickups, the generations talk with each other (sometimes, of course, we’re on our phones).
Alan Ostrovsky, a junior at Union County Academy for Information Technology in Scotch Plains, N.J., said he enjoys chatting with the retirees: “A lot of times, it’s actually quite interesting to hear the stories the older generation tell about how their life has gone on.”
Ostrovsky also likes “watching all the families come in and the smiles on their faces when they take away the furniture they need.”
Last Saturday, Krish Kapoor and his mother Nidhi Khanna, of Livingston, N.J., were on their second stint volunteering at Furniture Assist. They do it through the Young Men’s Service League national program for students and their parents.
“We were looking for volunteer opportunities, and last time when we came here, we got to meet very, very wonderful people,” said Khanna. And we felt this is something which we can really add value to. So why not come back again and see how we can help?”
Her son’s take: “What I like about it is you see people who really need things and they may be having a difficult time or they may just not be able to afford them. And then when they leave here, you’re really going to help them live the way they want to live. The feeling in the heart is very, very peaceful.”
Those words perfectly explain why Yeomans, a former computer systems designer, decided to start Furniture Assist in 2004, an outreach from his church, St. Luke All Saints, in Union, N.J.
“Places like Goodwill and Salvation Army sell the items they get and therefore they need a little higher quality than we do. They need the items their customers would buy. We don’t have that restriction. We give the stuff away free,” said Yeomans, who always shows up for the weekend work wearing smart, button-down shirts and slacks.
His nonprofit only declines items such as outdated televisions that aren’t flat screens, infant car seats, lighting fixtures requiring electricians, humongous breakfronts and stained furniture.
With a nod to my “Parents’ Stuff” article, Yeomans said he often hears donors telling him their late parents “would have been so happy to know that somebody’s going to get their items.”
Another comment Yeomans said he hears: “As soon as I get home, I’m going to throw all my stuff out because I’m not going to put my kids through what I just went through, cleaning up mom and dad’s house.”
If you’d like to volunteer in retirement but don’t know where, Nichols has four recommendations.
The first is VolunteerMatch , which even lets you filter opportunities for people 55-plus. “If you check the ‘good for fifty-five plus,’ that’s an organization that has said ‘We would love to have some older volunteers,’” Nichols noted.
The second is AARP’s Create the Good . The site says it will show you how to “connect with ways to share your life experience and skills that match your schedule and interests.” Create the Good also lets you select only home/remote opportunities, if you’d prefer to volunteer that way.
The third is AmeriCorps Seniors , which has three volunteering programs, sometimes with small stipends: Foster Grandparent (connecting older and younger people), RSVP (helping meet critical community needs) and Senior Companion (assisting older adults who have trouble with daily living tasks). Its online Pathfinder tool can help you locate a nearby AmeriCorps Seniors volunteering opportunity.
The last is environmentalist Bill McKibben’s new movement for people 60+, Third Act . “He’s doing some of the most interesting work around why older and younger people need to come together to work on voting rights, racial justice and climate action,” said Nichols.
She cautions against trying too hard to find the perfect place to volunteer.
“You do want to use your skill-sets, but I sure hope you also want to do good. Sometimes good nonprofits, especially coming out of the pandemic, are underwater. So how do you just show up and do what needs to be done?” she asked.
The U List
From time to time, I like to share with readers of The View From Unretirement a few pop-culture takes I think you’ll like. There are two new podcast episodes and one streaming series I especially enjoyed.
The podcast episodes are about older workers and, I think, of interest to people working in retirement. The streaming series features someone you know who’s doing terrific work in retirement: David Letterman.
Podcast episode 1 is part of the Stanford Center on Longevity’s “Century Lives” series hosted by Ken Stern. The episode, called “ The 25-Job Career ,” is about how the traditional career ladder that many boomers climbed is being replaced with more of a squiggly one. I think this trend may have problematic implications for retirement because frequent job hopping can make it harder to qualify for, and save much in, 401(k) retirement plans.
Podcast episode 2 is in The Wall Street Journal’s “As We Work” series hosted by Tess Vigeland. It’s called “ Age of Reinvention: How Seasoned Workers Can Add Spice to a Team .” Here, career coach Ginny Cheng and Vigeland present as good a case against ageism by employers as I’ve heard.
And just for fun, there’s the just-released season of Netflix’s “ My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman .” As you undoubtedly know, Letterman, now 75, retired in 2015 after 33 years hosting late-night talk shows on CBS and NBC. These days, he holds one-on-one filmed conversations with celebrities. On the new season, they include six talks with the likes of Billie Eilish, Julie Louis-Dreyfus and (pre-Oscars slap) Will Smith. Treat yourself.