Reflections of a Seasonal Volunteer
Published December 28, 2011
By Jim Skahan, Seasonal Volunteer
Since retiring from the private practice of law in Massachusetts in 2009, I have become what might be called a "seasonal volunteer". My seasons are two - one in Maine for five months, and the other in Georgia for seven months. Not wishing to spend either winter in Maine or summer in Georgia, my wife, Connie, and I felt it best to spend mid-May through mid-October in Maine and mid-October through mid-May in Georgia. Connie is a Maine girl, having been born and raised in Auburn, and spending all her summers in Winthrop on Lake Annabessacook. Even though we lived in Massachusetts for 40-plus years, there was no question that Connie's home was always at "the Lake". And there it remains - at least for late spring, summer, and early fall - all wonderful times to be in Maine.
Connie and I both volunteer in Georgia, and I have found two volunteer opportunities in Maine. Because I'm in Maine only five months, it appears I'm in the "seasonal" category. Year- round or seasonal, volunteering is not a one-way street. There are many benefits.
The causes are good ones - delivering meals for Meals on Wheels (out of the Cohen Community Center in Hallowell) and writing essays for an educational Civil War sesquicentennial project of the Maine Archives in Augusta. How can anyone not enjoy working for such causes?!
I'm not particularly fond of driving. I'll do it because it gets me from point A to Point B. But delivering food to those who can't afford it or who can't get to it gives driving a whole new purpose. So I drive one or two mornings a week. Thank heaven for GPS. Doing a route (in the Augusta, Hallowell, Gardner, Winthrop area) for the first time can be harrowing. I just hope I get to the final stop before noon so the last person on the route can have lunch. But even if the GPS gets me to the address, it doesn't get me to the right apartment or to the right building. They really ought to invent a GPS that will tell you where the apartment is in a multi-unit building or in a multi-building complex. Connie greatly assists me when I have a new route. After that I'm on my own. She expects me to learn.
The Cohen Community Center is just a marvelous place. It serves a great many people over a large area with many different programs. I'm privileged to have met Linda and Lisa, who work for the Meals on Wheels program. They are so helpful, so nice and so tolerant of my constant questions.
Located in Augusta are the Maine Archives, Library and Museum. These three places are State jewels - exciting public places of learning, of which Maine taxpayers can be very proud. I am fortunate to volunteer in the Archives - with employees Dave, Ann, Art, Anthony, Jeff and others who make the Archives a great place to research and write. Along with serving the public so well (the Archives are a busy place), they find time to answer my questions and help me find my way around. The Civil War sesquicentennial project is on-going and already is a great success. The project now has a website showing scores of essays and documents - accessible to schools throughout Maine and the Nation.
What are the benefits of volunteering - even for a season? Oh, yes. Volunteering can easily lead to other opportunities and adventures in addition to providing challenge, opportunities to learn (including learning to spell "sesquicentennial"), being in fine places with wonderful people, helping out and feeling good. Just to name a few.