Seniors answer the call to volunteer

2014-05-05T00:00:00Z 2014-05-06T00:04:05Z Seniors answer the call to volunteerBy CHRIS CIOFFI ccioffi@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

In 1989, when Helen Bryson left the workforce, she was looking for something to occupy her time. 

"When I first retired, there was an ad in the paper, and I answered the RSVP," she said. 

She started volunteering at the Billings Chamber of Commerce, and 25 years later it looks like she found that something to do — she's still volunteering at the chamber and at the visitor's center at Pompeys Pillar National Monument.

Since 2001, Bryson has racked up 4,011 hours of service and has enjoyed it.

Keeping her mind active and her body in motion is what keeps the 87-year-old Billings native volunteering.

"If I just went home and sat down when I retired, I wouldn't have done anything," she said. 

It's given her a chance to learn about the country and talk to folks she wouldn't normally interact with, she said.

"I've met a lot of nice people and people I've not seen for years."

Bryson, Garnet Wagner, Will Lehman and Roger Olmstead, all members of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, were honored Thursday at the Mansfield Center of St. Vincent Healthcare for completing more than 4,000 hours of service since Sept. 11, 2011.

"Near that date, President Bush made a national call for service," said Pam Makara, director of the RSVP program in Billings.

It's so important for the Billings community, because of the huge body of work volunteers are able to accomplish, she said. In 2013 alone, 560 volunteers donated 85,300 hours of their time at 118 different Billings organizations. 

"But even more valuable are the relationships that are developed as a result of the service that's provided," Makara said. 

The number of hours she's served doesn't matter much for Garnet Wagner, who has about 16 years of volunteering experience under her belt at Family Service, Inc. 

"I don't keep track ," Wagner said. "What I do is payment enough." 

For Wagner, while being recognized is flattering, that's not why she volunteers. It's something she can do for a part of the community that isn't being reached anywhere else. 

"It isn't necessary, but I'm saying thank you," she said. "I do it because I want to."

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