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Most Sun City volunteer groups holding their own for members

Posted 5/11/17

By Rusty Bradshaw

Independent Newsmedia

While some groups are finding it difficult to find volunteers, Sun City is not yet ready to give up the title “City of Volunteers.”

As the number …

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Most Sun City volunteer groups holding their own for members

By Rusty Bradshaw
Independent Newsmedia

While some groups are finding it difficult to find volunteers, Sun City is not yet ready to give up the title “City of Volunteers.”

As the number of community homes bought by baby boomers increases, the volunteer base is suffering a bit. Younger buyers are not turning to volunteer work either because they are still working or are freshly retired and want to enjoy that retirement for a while.

Thomasine DeGenero, a PRIDES volunteer for 14 years, and Bob Geier, a volunteer for seven years and a current board member, clean the canal at 99th Avenue and Hutton Drive.

But while some groups, like the Sun City Posse, see their membership shrinking, others, such as the Sun City Visitors Center, have all the volunteers they need. The reasons for the varied degree of membership satisfaction are as numerous as the services provided by Sun City volunteer groups.

“We are shrinking,” Mary Heiser, Posse commander, stated in an email. “People moving in are still working. They are snowbirds. Many activities available.”

However, the Posse faces other obstacles, most created by a District Court order prompted by a racial profiling case against then Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The order, among other things, requires Posse members to undergo the same training as sworn deputies, including training for things the Posse cannot do, such as traffic stops and arrests.

“(People tell us) the training is too long,” she stated.

Once a force of more than 200, the Posse now struggles to have 100 total volunteers. Those eligible for active patrol is about half that number.

In contrast, the Sun City Visitors Center, now operated by the Recreation Centers of Sun City, is not adding any new volunteers because the slate is full.

“SCVC has a stable team of volunteers and currently is not accepting new applications,” Joelynn Higgins, RCSC communications and marketing coordinator, stated in an email. “We utilize one volunteer per shift during summer months and two volunteers per shift from October to May when the number of out-of-state visitors increases.”

The Visitors Center also needs fewer volunteers than groups like the Posse and Sun City PRIDES. There are 32 active volunteers, including some who participate as guides or drivers on the center’s bus tours, according to Ms. Higgins.

The same is true for Banner Olive Branch Senior Center.

“We always have a steady trickle of people coming in to the center who want to volunteer and we also can recruit from the people coming for lunch,” Ivy Glinski, Olive Branch director, stated in an email.

PRIDES membership remains stable, but could be seeing some problems in the future as members continue to age, according to Ken Smith, PRIDES president.

“It’s staying stable as long as our current people keep volunteering, which is harder as they become older,” he stated in an email. “We are not getting the younger residents moving into Sun City to volunteer as much as we would like.”

Sun City Community Assistance Network utilizes a small number of volunteers in the office, but has traditionally had a large force of volunteers during tax season for the AARP Tax-Aide program. But that volunteer force took a hit this year due to an obstacle placed from outside the agency, similar to the Posse.

“I know (we) lost some volunteers this year because IRS got new software and some of the volunteers that had been using the same software for years decided not to go through the learning process,” Hugh Duncan, Sun City CAN board president, stated in an email.

Sun City volunteers average in the mid 70s in age, with the largest age range being 55-98 at Olive Branch.

As baby boomers continue to move into the community, volunteering may take on a different look.

“Many would prefer to help with single projects vs. large time commitments,” Ms. Higgins stated. “Project and task specific duties seem more likely to get volunteers in the future to help.”

People’s outlook on retirement has changed since Sun City was established, according to Ms. Glinski.

“People retiring today have a different mindset,” she stated. “They worked their whole life and now want to do things they couldn’t do when they were working.”

But that mindset may not last for the rest of their lives.

“They usually come around after a few years when they are bored with retirement,” she added.

Mr. Smith believes younger residents would rather pay to have something done than to work themselves, even a few hours per month.

“The volunteer mentality of the older people doesn’t seem to resonate so much with the younger people moving into Sun City,” He stated.

But he agrees their mindset may change.

“This may change as they see the good things being done by volunteers and as they have a shift in their thinking and their priorities,” he stated. “I”m not finding fault here at all, as I know we all go through ‘seasons’ in our lives.”

That changing outlook also stems from a lesser emphasis on volunteering in society and schools.

“When I taught in high school our students were expected to be involved in service projects. Even at the college level, students are encouraged to ‘give back to the community,’” Ms. Heiser stated. “Somewhere along the way the baby boomers were missed — at least some of them.”

The turn away from volunteering is also driven by individual desire.

“Those who have chosen to either not volunteer or discontinue volunteering at the Visitors Center are either busy with other activities or are unable to commit to the education process it takes to be a successful SCVC volunteer,” Ms. Higgins stated.

Recruiting volunteers is becoming as much a chore as the services organizations provide. Visitors Center officials plan to conduct a recruiting fair to allow people to see what it takes to operate the center and decide if giving their time there is right for them, Ms. Higgins explained. Similarly, the Posse conducts an annual open house to encourage residents to visit that facility and learn about the organization.

“Individually we try to recruit our neighbors, friends and others with whom we come into contact with,” Mr. Smith stated.

Must Sun City service groups also have booths at various expos, fairs and new resident orientations in the community to sign up new members. Word of mouth is also a strong recruiting tool.

“Residents often approach us at the Visitors Center to volunteer via word of mouth from other volunteers who are active in RCSC clubs,” Ms. Higgins stated.

Education can also play a part in encouraging new volunteers, according to Ms. Heiser.

“Showing the value of giving service, gratification of helping others, something beneficial to do with their time, which will also make the individual feel good about themselves,” she stated.