In the Spotlight: October 2023

October 16, 2023

There are lots of ways people keep busy after they retire: spending time with their grandchildren, golfing, traveling, researching their family tree, and, let’s not forget, playing pickleball. But according to the co-author of the book “What Retirees Want,” there’s one thing retirees don’t seem to be doing much of, and that’s volunteering.

Only 26% of the nation’s 70 million retirees volunteer. One of those volunteers is Todd Smith. He’s been volunteering at the Aurora Food Pantry for nearly four years. You could say Todd lives by the motto, “A good retirement is an active retirement!”

Most of the time, you’ll see Todd’s smiling face in the market. But he’s also a driver for Pantry To Go, waters the Essential Garden, and helps out on location at pop-up pantries. “The more I’ve done it, the better I like it. It’s hard work, but at the end of the day, you realize how much you help, especially now.” said Smith.  In August, the pantry, along with hundreds of volunteers, served 17,357 people. “It’s just what we do. I’m nothing special. All the volunteers believe in the mission. It’s a passion. It’s what we do,” said Smith.

Todd is married and has two fur babies. His paid job was with Nokia, in tech support. He did that for decades. But Todd believes just because you’re retired doesn’t mean your passion for working or helping others retired, too. Don’t just take it from Todd, though. Statistics back up the benefits of volunteering. Some of the benefits include: Meeting new people with interests similar to yours, gaining a sense of purpose and/or accomplishment, and studies show volunteering combats depression. In fact, a study from Carnegie Mellon University found that adults over the age of 50 who volunteered regularly decreased their blood pressure by 40 percent and are more likely to increase physical activity and decrease stress. Todd adds, “There’s a camaraderie with the volunteers who show up regularly. We have a good time together, and we have each other’s back!”

The total volunteer hours for fiscal year 2023 at the pantry were 47,967. We couldn’t serve the thousands each week without our volunteers, retired or not! Thank you to Todd and all of you! As Abraham Lincoln once said, “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s life in your years.”