Eli Meir Kaplan
As AARP president and a member of its Board of Directors, I have the privilege of visiting volunteers all over the country. They are as diverse as AARP’s vast membership, a cross section of 50-plus America. Some are retired. Some are still on the job. Some are launching new careers. Some are raising grandchildren or helping support adult children. Many provide care for ailing loved ones.
For all their differences, they share a dedication and commitment to service — values that go to the heart of AARP.
Our founder, Ethel Percy Andrus, understood that people who volunteer their time in service to others are people who aspire to make a difference. She recognized that older Americans were a resource that could contribute an enormous amount of good to their communities and all of society. She further recognized that these efforts were valuable not just to society but to the volunteers themselves, once describing service as “the elixir of life.”
Every day, AARP volunteers are working in the community, connecting with individuals and families, helping to empower them, striving to improve health security, financial resilience and personal fulfillment. These efforts are extremely important for our association, because engaging at the community level helps us make a difference where people live. It helps us understand what people really need. It helps us hear their voices. And it guides us in formulating policies that reflect people’s real concerns.
For years I have seen this firsthand, both in my current role and before that as president of AARP California (both volunteer jobs, by the way!). AARP volunteers help communities fight hunger and isolation. They mentor young people who need role models. They help the homeless, support veterans, step in after disasters, lobby in state capitals and contribute to the arts and culture of their communities.
Right now at the peak of tax season, almost 35,000 AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are hard at work — providing free tax preparation for taxpayers of modest incomes at more than 5,000 locations, including libraries, malls, banks, community centers and senior centers.
And that is just one service out of many performed by our volunteers. More than 4,000 Driver Safety volunteers help more than half a million drivers stay safe on the roads every year. Over 2,000 AARP Experience Corps volunteers in 22 cities help struggling students become better readers.
At AARP state offices across the country, volunteers represent AARP at community events — dedicating their skills to critical issues, supporting family caregivers, strengthening long-term care, ensuring health care access, protecting Social Security through AARP’s Take a Stand initiative, fighting for home energy and telecommunications consumers, and helping improve the experience of aging in countless other ways.
To all of you, I say thank you. Your efforts are greatly appreciated. Your generous spirit helps our association get vital work accomplished every day. Thank you for giving so willingly of your wisdom and your immense talents.