Photos by Jennifer Silverberg
At 80, Amelia Paschedag is one of AARP's oldest advocacy volunteers in Illinois, often working longer days than her younger counterparts.
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"I could probably outwalk most of the people I was with," said Paschedag, of Edwardsville. "And I still can take the stairs."
Around the state Capitol, she's known as an aggressive volunteer. A high school home economics and economics teacher for 38 years, Paschedag began lobbying legislators for grant money for schools in the early 1960s. She started volunteering for AARP Illinois in 1992, at first distributing position papers to legislators on behalf of the organization. Then she started to lobby face-to-face, choosing issues she felt passionate about.
Paschedag is among more than 200 people who volunteer for AARP Illinois in a variety of roles. Here are some other examples.
While helping at a local university library and at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, Martha Clough already had the volunteer spirit when AARP asked her to lend a hand six years ago.
Clough, 66, of Buckhart, worked with AARP staff members to organize volunteers for the state office. They perform a variety of tasks, such as serving as legislative advocates and handing out brochures at local health fairs and the Illinois State Fair.
Along with the volunteers she organizes, Clough helps improve the lives of those over 50. She has visited a nursing home to help organize holiday parties and to distribute gifts and handmade blankets.
"It gives us a good feeling that we're making a little bit of difference in others' lives. We get to help others, including those less fortunate," Clough said.
She and her husband, Dean, have also assisted at the Illinois Senior Olympics in Springfield, specifically the swimming and shot put events.
Mia Lopez, 40, also believes she's filling a need by being an AARP volunteer. Although too young to be a member, the Chicago resident volunteered to serve as a bus captain on a trip with a group of older Latinos to the Chicago Latino Film Festival.
"It's helpful to have Latino volunteers with people who are Latino," Lopez said. "I think from a diversity and inclusion perspective it's important for membership and recruitment."
"You can do pretty much what your interests are and what you want to do, and they're open to hearing that," she said. "AARP overall is a very welcoming organization."
Frank Price, 70, became an AARP Illinois advocacy volunteer soon after retiring as an operational manager with the Illinois Department of Corrections in 2002.
Last year, Price, who lives less than four miles from the Capitol, helped explain to legislators the consequences of a bill opposed by AARP to give guaranteed annual electric rate increases to utility companies. Although the bill was vetoed by Gov. Pat Quinn (D), the legislature ultimately overrode Quinn's veto and the bill became law in October.
While his advocacy efforts on behalf of AARP Illinois aren't always successful, Price said participating — win or lose — is what matters.
"I find it to be one of the most fulfilling tasks I do or have done," he said. "It's an opportunity to help seniors, and the neat thing about helping seniors is you often reach other parts of the community that aren't seniors, and they get the help if we win."
If you're interested in finding out more about volunteering with AARP Illinois, call 1-866-448-3613 toll-free or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also of interest: Become a driver safety volunteer.
Kelly Soderlund is a freelance writer living in Roselle, Ill.