After 27 years teaching reading in the Kent School District, Linda Hollingsworth woke up one morning a retiree (though she still makes herself available to work as a sub) and quickly realized she needed something to do.
So, she got involved with the Kent Senior Center working in the coffee bar and joining a group of women knitting items to donate. I asked Linda if she had knitted the colorful scarf she was wearing during our interview, and she shyly said yes.
Linda discovered Catholic Community Services (CCS) through RSVP’s Experience in Action (EIA) newsletter. She contacted Jan Hancock at RSVP and now volunteers in CCS’s Volunteer Services.
The mission of Volunteer Services is to “…assist low-income elders and adults with chronic illnesses or disabilities remain independent in their own homes.” The substance of the assistance is worked out between volunteer and client, but can entail chores such as trips to the grocery store, dog walking, light housework, and driving to doctor appointments.
The first step in building a relationship is to build trust. “Clients need to feel safe,” Linda says. Once trust is established, Linda modestly sees her role as “mostly just listening.”
She tries to find out what her new companion is interested in, encourages finding alternatives to frustrations and struggles, and celebrates good news, such as positive visits to the doctor. For her part, Linda comes away from her visits “feeling blessed that I can walk, drive, see, and have the freedom to do what I want when I want to.”
Linda applauds CCS as a “Great organization.” Her calls are returned quickly and there’s always someone ready to talk through issues. She regards her volunteering as “fun” and encourages everyone to get involved with volunteering. “I love to tell people about volunteering and RSVP,” she says, adding, “There are more needs out there than volunteers to fill them.”
In her first six months as a volunteer for CCS’s Volunteer Services, Linda has already given over 60 hours of service! Says Hollianne Monson, Program Manager of Volunteer Services, “VS relies on volunteers like Linda who not only alleviate the loneliness and isolation of older adults in the program, but also assist them with simple, key household tasks like taking out the garbage, vacuuming and driving to appointments or the grocery store. They make an enormous difference in the life of program participants who often don’t have any family or friends to call on for help.”
Whereas Linda describes herself as a “new volunteer,” her personal history tells a far different story. A lifetime Seattle-area resident, Linda met her husband in October of her senior year at the University of Washington, and they were married the following June after her graduation with a degree in Business Administration. Linda had been accepted into the Peace Corps, but romance and marriage intervened and altered her plans.
“I love to tell people about volunteering and RSVP. There are more needs out there than volunteers to fill them.” ~Linda Hollingsworth, RSVP volunteer companion
Linda and her husband were married for 47 years, and during that time, they adopted and raised seven children. The oldest is from Korea (age 48) and the youngest is from Romania (age 23). They have four grandchildren and one great-grandchild, with another on the way. To put the span of their adopted family in perspective, Linda points out that her oldest grandchild is older than her youngest adoptee! If raising seven adopted children isn’t volunteering writ large, I don’t know what is!
The family lived on one acre in Kent, along with donkeys, chickens, goats, rabbits and dogs. In addition to their adopted children, Linda and her husband also took in foster children – and even foster dogs and cats from the Kent animal shelter.
And in addition to her work with CCS, Linda volunteers with the American Association of University Women. Founded in 1881, this nonprofit organization advocates for equality for women and girls.
As a final question, I ask Linda if there is anything she wants to add. “Yes,” she says, “I hope this article inspires people to volunteer. There’s no satisfaction greater than helping others.”
RSVP (Retired & Senior Volunteer Program) is a National Service program that engages people age 55 and older in a diverse range of volunteer activities. Sponsored locally by Solid Ground, we partner with 60 organizations, where we place RSVP volunteers to meet community needs. To get involved, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org today!