Tom Brokaw was the first to call them the Greatest Generation. The men and woman who came of age during the Great Depression and struggled again though World War II seemingly have every excuse to rest on their laurels. But they haven’t, and that may be what truly makes them great.
Now in their senior years, the Greatest Generation is still showing why they are the greatest. The recent Senior Heroes Contest set out to find great senior volunteers across the US and Canada. As each nomination came in, I was flabbergasted time and time again by the amount of work seniors provide in their community. More than 1500 nominations came in touting the unwavering commitment each senior has for their community and causes close to their hearts.
I read each of the nominee’s stories, and many were like Clark Paradise’s, the National Winner, from Tom’s River, NJ. Retirement isn’t an option for these go-getters, not because they haven’t financially prepared for it, but because they found a need in their community and couldn’t look away. Clark and his wife Jean became aware of homeless people living in the woods without the basic necessities like soap or toilet paper. What started out as a small drive for these necessities has now become his full-time volunteer career. Their generosity and hard work have touched countless lives.
Then there is Ray Storms from Jacksonville, FL who has devoted his retirement years to helping the Lost Boys of Sudan. His story was so moving that I got choked up when I spoke to him on the phone. It was a reaction I thought would be reserved for meeting a celebrity or some other famous figure. Papa Ray, as he is called, has sacrificed his time, money and retirement to make sure these young men have every chance to be successful in their new home. Talk about great!
These are just two examples of the wonderful work seniors are doing in our communities every day. Schools, hospitals, churches and other local groups would surely be at a loss without them. In fact, data from Corporation for National and Community Service shows that 1 out of 4 people over the age of 55 volunteer their time. Between 2008 and 2010, these volunteers contributed more than 3 billion hours of service per year in their communities. That’s right, 3 billion hours! The economic benefit of their service totaled more than $64 billion.
While those numbers may be impressive, they don’t prove that our seniors are still the Greatest Generation. If you want proof, all you have to do is read each of their stories and see how many lives have been made better because they have a giving heart. In fact, I think we may need a better moniker; “great” just doesn’t seem to do them justice.
Visit www.SalutetoSeniorService.com to learn more about these amazing senior volunteers and how you can get involved in your own community.
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