Sonia Collazo, 65, volunteer networking and presentations coordinator
Collazo retired from her job in conflict resolution for Philadelphia's Commission on Human Relations after working there 27 years, and she knew she wanted to work in the Latino community. When she read that Congreso, a multiservice nonprofit for low-income local communities, was starting a Friday group for older Spanish-speaking adults, she volunteered.
Two months after she started, they began paying her to be the networking and presentations coordinator. Collazo finds speakers and arranges presentations on topics such as living wills, voter registration and HIV/AIDS, and uses her mediation skills to keep the diverse group simpatico. "I love what I'm doing, and as long as I have my health and energy, I'll keep working," she says.
Linda Rosso, 58, painter and marketing consultant
Rosso was a marketing and communications executive for a national public relations firm in San Francisco when the recession hit. "It was a good time to step off the path and look at what I really wanted to be doing," she says. While continuing to work in marketing, she took a painting course at a local college. When her oil landscapes began to sell, Rosso noticed that more accomplished artists were selling fewer paintings than she was.
She drew up a plan to help other artists market their work. Rosso continues to consult with companies and artists. "I've found the perfect job because I get to do everything I love," she says. She now gets paid to use her marketing and promotion skills, helps artists sell their paintings, and paints three days a week herself. She also has time to do volunteer work. Her new idea: Start an online marketing website to help artists sell their work, with a portion of the sales going to charity. "I think I can help them make a big difference in their careers," says Rosso.
Bob Groves, 66, teacher
In 2011, Groves, a nonprofit executive, unexpectedly lost his job. "I struggled mightily," he says. "Suddenly, I was no longer The Man I had been at work who people came to, and had to figure out how to fulfill myself."
Groves took courses in play reading, poetry and improvisational acting ("to stretch myself") at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Temple University in Philadelphia, one of 117 Osher programs on campuses nationwide designed to enhance the lives of semiretired and retired people. He decided he wanted to teach. Now 30 older students take his course on human rights; he teaches English to a woman from Nepal; and he gets to babysit his 2-year-old granddaughter every Thursday. If paid work came up, Groves would be interested but says he's "not actively looking for it." His wife still works full time.
Dianne Aguilar, 55, part-time community connections coordinator
A resident of Tempe, Ariz., Aguilar spent 30 years working for Arizona State University's athletic department and two professional sports teams. Five years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and a year later lost her job. Soon, she exhausted her insurance. "At first I thought, 'woe is me,' but then I realized I always wanted to change my career and now is my chance," says Aguilar.
She enrolled in ASU's one-year certificate program in nonprofit management. Through Experience Matters, a local organization that connects boomers with nonprofits, she obtained a $20,000 stipend to work part time for a year for Mission of Mercy, an organization that provides primary health care for the uninsured — a cause close to her heart. There, she used her database expertise to help pilot a health education program. After the fellowship ended last November, Mission of Mercy asked Aguilar to stay on part-time to replicate the program in the organization's five other clinics. "The money isn't the same, but I feel I'm making an impact in the world," she says.
Sally Abrahms is based in Boston.
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