Making a Difference in Retirement

Contributor Shirley Miles is shown on the left in the photo below, with Southeast Seattle Senior Center (SESSC) executive director Lynda Greene at her side. For more information about SESSC activities and events, visit www.southeastseattleseniorcenter.org.

The last several years of my employment were challenging. I started my career 50 years ago, working with civil rights agencies. I longed for the fulfillment I experienced when doing work that made a difference in the lives of people. As I contemplated retirement, my priority was to do things that I would enjoy and make a difference in the lives of others.

During this time, my best friend Lynda Greene became the executive director of the Southeast Seattle Senior Center (SESSC). I attended several events at the center and discovered that it was full of active, happy people.

Lynda asked me to help with a major fundraising event, which launched my SESSC volunteer service, three years before I retired. I volunteered the day of events. My experiences at the center during this time made me realize I had talents that could benefit the center and in turn I began to feel better about my purpose in life.

Nonprofits cannot afford a number of support staff; however, skilled volunteers are a great asset. With only two full-time and three part-time staff, volunteers are important to successful SESSC operations. My skills include administrative, organizational, project management, budgeting, developing procedures, operations and teamwork. These are the talents and skills I can contribute to a successful event.

While providing my volunteer services at the center, I also receive many benefits. I always have a sense of pride following an event. There is also the added benefit of keeping my mind active. Problem solving is great for keeping your brain stimulated!

I have made new friends, which is great for the soul. The center’s positive environment gave a big boost to my self-esteem. I now have a more positive outlook on life and my “golden years.”

I was concerned about getting old, but the seniors at the center are an inspiration to me. I am especially amazed at the seniors with physical challenges who are at the center every day, participating with a smiling face.

My health has also improved. I had a heart attack in 2008, basically due to job stress. During a recent visit to the cardiologist, I learned I’ve experienced significant health improvements.

I am blessed to be volunteering with seniors, as it provides me a way to continue to honor my mother. My favorite part of the day is when I take time to get a hug and chat with the elders.