Giving through volunteering: Jefferson Senior Citizens Center

Ashley Hunter
ECB Publishing, Inc.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away,” - William Shakespeare

To volunteer, or “give away your gift” is an act that connects you to others, yourself, your community and even to your own career. In Jefferson County, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities, and this new series will spotlight some of the ways that locals can get involved and share their gifts with those around them.
Volunteering can be done through a variety of opportunities and activities; that fact is no clearer exemplified than through the various volunteer possibilities that are offered by the Jefferson Senior Citizens Center (JSCC).
The center serves as a meeting place, activity center and resource hub for the senior citizens of Jefferson County. Within the JSCC, senior citizen clients are able to enjoy meals with others, participate in engaging programs and educational classes, learn a unique craft, practice a new skill or take part in exercise programs.
While the JSCC does have a paid staff who keep things running, the center relies heavily on the aid of volunteers who come in to organize programs or classes.
“We use volunteers in every area. We use volunteers for recreation, for health, for arts and crafts,” said Annie McDuffie, the center’s Older Americans Act Coordinator.
Each month, the center offers programs that allow local senior citizens to get out of their homes and stay active; those programs may offer fitness exercise, or mental puzzles and games. Whatever is offered to local senior citizens, these programs play an important part in keeping seniors active and out of nursing homes, McDuffie says.
There are many volunteers who pour their time and energy into the center, but McDuffie stresses that the center could always use more creative, energetic or passionate people to offer more to the cause.
The two greatest areas, McDuffie says, where the center needs volunteers to conduct programs or provide assistance is in the transportation and arts and craft programs.
“We could really use someone in our arts and crafts area to teach more crafts,” adds McDuffie. Currently, the center has a crochet class for the seniors and will occasionally host other crafting instructors – but McDuffie says there is a need for more regularly scheduled crafting and art sessions.
The sessions can involve painting, sewing or jewelry making – anything that is creative and engaging.
While the center has a pre-prepared crafting room, McDuffie advises that volunteers who would like to host a crafting class should be prepared to bring with them enough supplies for 15-25 participants.
Outside of the crafting and arts, McDuffie says that another area where the center is in dire need of volunteers is their transportation services.
While Big Bend Transit buses senior citizens from their homes to the center and other local resources, McDuffie says that the center provides their own transportation when they take their senior clients on day-trips around or outside the county.
Volunteers who own or have access to a van or bus are especially needed. While the center does own a van, it doesn’t fit as many people as it needs to in order for trips to include the majority of their clients. McDuffie says that the center's staff are looking for people to volunteer to assist in transporting their clients to events, outings and other trips on a quarterly basis.
“We have not been on a trip in a while,” said McDuffie. “The van won’t hold all our seniors at one time.”
In the past, they’ve done picnics and fishing trips, visited area restaurants and regular trips to the local library for the Senior Social hours.
In January, McDuffie says they are planning to participate in Senior Day at the Capitol for the Legislative Session, and she would love to see museum trips or summer-themed outings (such as beach, lake or pool visits) over the upcoming year.
While those two areas are definitely in need of loyal volunteers, McDuffie says that the center is primarily looking for people who will just 'come in through the day' and spend time with the center's senior clients.
“We definitely need people to come in [and] just being a companion to our seniors,” McDuffie adds.
Whether its through playing a board or card game, teaching a second language, bonding over books and storytelling or visiting for lunch, the center is simply looking for volunteers with a heart for people and a desire to connect.
“Whatever you can do to volunteer. Just come with whatever you have,” says McDuffie. “Our seniors will love it. If you think it will be a benefit for the seniors, we would love to have you.”
The center's volunteer needs are a wonderful opportunity for families or church and youth groups.
“Anything to keep our seniors active and involved, that’s what we are looking for,” McDuffie concludes.