Retirees find opportunity to serve again

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Rebekah Sewell

Patricia Rice, 69, is many things: a retiree, mother, grandmother, and now a youth mentor for children transitioning out of the foster system. She found her current position through ReServe — a nonprofit service that matches adults 55 and older with local nonprofits that can benefit from their professional and personal experience.

ReServists get meaningful part-time work (and a modest stipend), and the nonprofits that hire them get interested, skilled employees at a modest cost.

ReServe was founded in 2005 in response to two social and economic trends: 80 million baby boomers were starting to reach traditional retirement age, while at the time same, nonprofit organizations and public agencies faced challenges in their capacity to serve growing numbers of people in need.

Many of the retiring boomers didn’t need to work for money, but wanted to stay engaged in the work force while maintaining their flexibility and devoting their time to worthwhile projects. ReServe helps them do all these things. 

To become a ReServist, applicants submit their credentials and are interviewed and vetted. Those who are approved are eventually matched with a local nonprofit organization looking to hire someone with their skill set.

The nonprofits pay ReServe an hourly fee for their ReServists, part of which is passed along to the ReServist as an hourly stipend  (generally the minimum wage for the jurisdiction in which they work; D.C.’s minimum wage is $11.50 per hour). ReServists can work 10 to 20 hours per week under this arrangement. In some cases, the placement leads to a full-time job, but that is not the expectation.

ReServe’s Mid-Atlantic office opened in 2012 in the Baltimore, Md. area. Its Washington office just recently got off the ground and is now actively seeking older workers.

“We hope to recruit 75 ReServists [and place them] in different organizations and specialized programs” this year, said Claudia Thorne, director of Mid-Atlantic ReServe. “There are so many opportunities, and we find what fits for them.”

ReServe also has programs in New York City, Greater Boston, South Florida and North Jersey.

Specialized programs

Other branches of ReServe feature service-oriented projects that have a direct impact on their communities. Its Dementia Care Coaching program is just one of many the organization hopes to replicate in the Mid-Atlantic region.

“We’ve developed an innovative and cost-effective model that works with families and caregivers,” said Thorne. These ReServists train other caregivers and adult children how to be the most effective caregivers.

ReServe also has an in-house program called PrepNow! that matches mentors age 65+ with youth in foster care. “We aim to create a college-going culture within foster homes,” she said.

Rice, a Marine veteran who spent the majority of her career in the banking industry, began looking for a way to give back to her Baltimore community and joined ReServe last January.

“I saw this as an excellent opportunity to reestablish a connection to my hometown and be an active participant in its growth and development,” Rice said.

ReServe suggested Rice become a mentor with Hope Forward, a nonprofit that works with former foster youth. There, she assists young adults who’ve been through the foster care system, and “are in need of guidance to help them make a successful transition,” she said.

Specifically, Rice helps her mentees prepare for job interviews, which is their first step toward adulthood and financial independence. She also points them toward resources for education, housing, clothing and childcare if necessary.

Sometimes being present and willing to help is enough to make a difference. “I help just by having a listening ear, being a sounding board, giving a hug, sharing my lunch, imparting some wisdom, or just being here in the office when they come in, needing to see a caring face,” she said.

“Encouraging others to lead successful lives can be very rewarding and fulfilling for them and for you,” Rice noted. “I would definitely recommend this program to other retirees.”

Temp to perm

Another ReServist, Rosanne Hanratty, 65, always wanted to work with older adults. “Even in college, I knew,” she said. A native New Yorker, she watched her grandmother take the subway, working as a maid well into her 70s, and she knew the traditional view of aging as “winding down” didn’t describe everyone.

Hanratty now lives in Ellicott City, Md., and works for the Maryland Department on Aging in Baltimore. In her position as staff for the Maryland Commission on Aging, she draws on her 23-year career experience in public policy. She previously worked on disability cases at the Social Security Administration.

After retiring from her position there, she returned to school and completed a master’s degree in nondenominational religious studies so she could become a minister for seniors. At 57, she began a new career ministering to the residents of a nursing home.

“Working in direct service” was a positive experience, she said. “But I wanted to return to public policy.” She read about ReServe in the NY Times and applied, leading to her position with the Commission on Aging in 2014. She reported directly to the aging department’s legislative liaison.

“As time went on, they started giving me more responsibility, and my role expanded,” said Hanratty. So she decided to leave the part-time ReServe placement after about a year, and instead became a full-time contract employee with the Department of Aging. 

“I enjoyed working for [ReServe], and I’m really passionate about what it does,” she said. She also thinks it’s a good fit for retires looking to stay active and engaged. “I love an intellectual challenge, but even having the social context of coworkers is good.”

For more information on ReServe generally, visit www.reserveinc.org. To find out more about becoming a ReServist in the Mid-Atlantic region, email Midatlantic@
reserveinc.org or call (202) 469-3477.

ReServe holds periodic information orientations for interested professionals. The next session takes place on Tuesday, Sept. 27 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the Southeast Neighborhood Library at 403 7th St. SE, Washington, D.C. Pre-registration is required. Register online at www.reserveinc.org/OppBd/opportunityBoard/First-Impressions-Application-Request.php.