Some Marion County senior centers are experiencing a basic rule of economics right now: Scarcity Value. Volunteers seem to be in short supply, and the desire for their help is increasing.
“Oh heavens, we couldn’t do it without them.” Janet Bryant, nutrition site manager for Marion Senior Center, said. “We really need volunteers. They play a vital role in making this center possible. I don’t know how it’s accomplished without them.”
Marion Senior Center recently lost a longtime dining room volunteer, Rosalie Schmidtberger, which left two volunteer spots open. Although the center has ample dining patrons, Bryant said many of them are not physically able to do what volunteers need to do.
“Volunteers are usually the younger old people, usually around 70 years old,” she said. “But right now there seems not to be many in that group. Maybe another group will come along.”
Dinah Richmond, president of Peabody Senior Center, echoed Bryant’s sentiments.
“Getting volunteers is a very difficult project,” Richmond said. “Some people have trouble admitting that they are old or find it difficult to see themselves in that regard, but it happens to everybody. Time doesn’t leave anyone behind.”
Although there are others, volunteers like Sue Clough are hard to find. As president of Marion Senior Center, she volunteers about 32 hours per week doing anything from general cleaning to attending important senior center meetings around the county and state.
“Once you retire you have got to stay busy because it keeps your mind, body, and spirit in better condition,” Clough said. “I’m at the senior center every day and people ask me why I don’t just stay home. Well, I’d rather just be with people. I like the social aspect.”
She said volunteers contribute to the health and well-being of nutrition site patrons and homebound patrons who get their meals delivered.
Lanell Hett of Marion County Department on Aging said their transportation service has always been staffed by volunteer drivers.
“We have some very dedicated volunteers but it seems like it has gotten harder to find them over the years,” Hett said. “Our volunteers do a lot. They take people to doctor appointments, to do necessity shopping, and on other basic errands in or out of town that they might not be able to or feel comfortable driving to on their own.”
They have about 10 volunteer drivers who also help with a putting out a quarterly newsletter, Hett said.
Richmond said Peabody Senior Center has about 10 volunteers that provide dining room, meal delivery, and other services every week.
Bryant said Marion Senior Center has about 20 weekly volunteers that collectively average 250 hours per month.
“If we paid a minimum wage of $7.25 to each volunteer, well you do the math, [it’s about $1,812.50 per month],” she said.
Tampa Senior Center is not a nutrition site, but volunteers play a crucial role in organizing monthly meetings that have guest speakers who provide seniors useful information and entertainment in a variety of areas.
“We usually have about 20 people who meet once a month, Carole Spohn, Tampa Senior Center president. “It really is important for elderly people to get together to visit and share. If someone is sick, we worry about them and help take care of them. That’s a small town; everyone helps each other.”