Cindi Moses will tell you she has supervised perfect workers. They never arrived late, proved dependable and professional, and were caring and understanding. And, they never got paid.
Moses, now executive vice president for the United Way of Lancaster County, says she remains impressed by the 30 senior citizens who volunteered when she managed the Well Spring Library for Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health about 11 years ago. “They took this as seriously as a paid job,” she says.
Those volunteers also checked several boxes for mental health professionals who recommend senior citizens regularly volunteer in person to protect and improve their psychological and physical health.
“Volunteering fills a human need,” says Dr. Petrous Levounis, who chairs the psychiatry department at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “Retirees who have led incredibly productive lives may find themselves not contributing to society as much as before.”
Better mental health, decreased anxiety and reduced feelings of depression often result from the sense of belonging senior volunteers feel when they share a community with other people, Levounis says. In addition, a regular volunteer schedule adds routine and structure to a daily life that may have loosened when work stopped.
Michelle Carlson researches the physical benefits for senior citizens who volunteer. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health professor helped found Experience Corps, an enterprise that trains and places retirees as tutors in public schools. Research shows participants “were showing improvement in cognitive function and executive decision-making,” Carlson says. Volunteers receive testing before and after training and tutoring.
Experience Corps, now run by AARP, has chapters in Baltimore and Philadelphia, although none in Lancaster.
Lancaster County does, however, offer several volunteer spots for senior citizens, from Mozart to home runs to helping city visitors. There’s one virtual option and even a paid position that will get your blood pumping on a roller coaster or flying trapeze. Also, most places provide seated positions to people with mobility issues.
Bond with Boomer
Pennsylvania SPCA of Lancaster
848 Prince St.
The dogs want to leave. Tails wagging, they wait for their volunteer humans, eager for a few hours out on the town. A cocker spaniel may go out to brunch, a poodle may take a stroll inside HomeGoods, while a Chihuahua may dash to a dog park.
“This is such a great way for the community to get involved,” says Lindsay High, community relations manager and site director for the Pennsylvania SPCA of Lancaster.
This much-needed personal contact puts animals waiting for homes at ease with humans. For people who don’t want to gallivant? Just come on in and tickle a kitten or two. “It’s incredibly important,” High says. “We have a very limited staff.”
The shelter divides dogs into colors green, yellow and red. Volunteers start out walking green dogs, who have the easiest temperament, High says. Yellow dogs take more experienced participants, while dogs in the red zone work only with paid staff. After more experience, volunteers also start training dogs to obey simple commands. Playing with kittens also is encouraged.
Another part of the process involves Petventures, a commitment that combines adventures and pets. Volunteers “check-out” an animal to give a prospective pet time with people. “Our volunteers are incredibly important,” High notes.
Fill out a volunteer form online at pspca.org
Keep kitties comfortable
Pet Pantry of Lancaster County
26 Millersville Road
Pet Pantry not only shelters animals but supports more than 250 families who can’t afford vet bills, food, medicine or toys.
“We have quite a few volunteers who help us with cleaning and feeding the cats,” says Nacomi Bissonnette, the shelter’s rescue manager.
In addition to working with animals, the shelter offers other jobs, such as washing and folding laundry, answering the phone, helping sort donations and volunteering at off-site adoption events.
Participants may also foster animals, and Pet Pantry offers volunteer information sessions.
Root for the home team
Clipper Magazine Stadium
605 N. Prince St.
Smell the popcorn, watch the hits and listen to the play-by-play announcers. Senior citizens may volunteer at Barnstormer games.
“Baseball is part of the older generation,” says Melissa Tucker, the team’s vice president of corporate partnerships.
The team this season began a partnership with The United Way. Four volunteers per game can assist patrons in sky boxes, greet people at the front gate, work on the concourse, supervise the kids’ park or perform several other duties. The Barnstormers then donate a set amount of “salary” to The United Way to use on other organizations it supports.
“Helping out nonprofits and helping out Lancaster County is part of who we are,” Tucker explains. “This is a great volunteer program.”
Act 1, Scene 3
The Fulton Theatre
12 N. Prince St.
Volunteering at a theater spreads joy, says Andrea Wright, front-of-house manager for the Fulton Theatre.
“The purpose of a theater is to tell a story,” Wright says, “but we’re bringing happiness and helping people.”
Senior citizens can be part of that, she says. Between 20 and 25 volunteers help with each performance. Ambassadors sell snacks and water, guide patrons to seats and take tickets, among other duties. Participants in the theater’s Angel Program help with actors coming to Lancaster to perform. Angels may take actors grocery shopping, out to dinner or pick them up from the train station. Other participants may work in the Fulton office helping with mailings.
The theater usually counts on a volunteer list of about 1,000 people, but numbers are down between 600 and 700.
“If someone has an excitement, a passion to be here, we can make it happen,” Wright says.
Answer questions about Lancaster
The Lancaster City Visitor Center
38 Penn Square
The Lancaster City Visitor Center, housed inside a city hall building from the 1790s, soon will begin a renovation that will enlarge its second-floor gallery to display additional art.
“We’re going to need more people,” says Pat Sherman, the center’s administrative assistant.
Volunteers also hand out maps and recommendations, and gather people for either an African American Heritage Walking Tour or the Historic Lancaster Walking Tour.
The magic flute
Lancaster Symphony Orchestra
48 N. Christian St.
Listen to soothing flute melodies plus every other instrument featured in The Lancaster Symphony Orchestra as a senior volunteer.
“We have lots of different opportunities,” says Melinda Myers, orchestra marketing and program director.
About 40 participants cover as many as four performances in each of the seven concert weekends.
“We are in great need for ushers for all our performances,” she says.
Jobs include passing out program booklets, taking tickets, directing patrons to restrooms and helping customers retrieve tickets. The organization offers an orientation before a volunteer’s first shift. Performances occur at First Presbyterian Church on Orange Street, and volunteers wear white shirts and black skirts or pants.
In addition, Myers needs about 45 volunteers during the mornings May 17-18, 2022, for two children’s concerts at JP McCaskey High School and the Lancaster Bible College on Eden Road.
Volunteer email: email@example.com
Virtual story time
United Way of Lancaster County
1910 Harrington Drive
Spend 30 minutes a week reading with an elementary school student over Zoom. ZTutors began a year ago. The program is run by the United Way, the Lancaster Downtowners and Lancaster Partnership for Learning Equity, which includes the Steinman Foundation.
“It really came out of COVID,” explains United Way’s Moses.
Older residents lost a place to volunteer when schools shut down during the pandemic. So ZTutors reached out to computer-literate retirees and has trained about 30 volunteers who read with students at Fulton and King elementary schools in the School District of Lancaster.
The program will remain virtual, even though most students returned to the classroom, says Melissa Ressler, executive director for the Lancaster Downtowners. Teachers, it seems, want the Zoom tutors to keep going, in addition to any classroom volunteers.
“This program has a lot of potential,” Ressler says.
The one that pays you
2249 Lincoln Hwy E.
Jeffrey Eisenberg wishes he could let seniors volunteer, but the marketing director for Dutch Wonderland Pennsylvania insists he has to pay them $12.50 an hour plus perks. Those include free park tickets, discounted food and merchandise, and free entrance at participating venues, such as Hersheypark.
“If you’re having a bad day, seeing a little kid smiling with his family may be a really good opportunity,” Eisenberg says. “If someone is looking to one or two days a week to give back, we are happy to do that. We are flexible and open to all individuals.”
Workers may select their areas, such as air-conditioned or indoor spaces, and whether they need to be seated or can stand. Positions range from operating rides or midway games to selling food or working inside a gift shop. Other jobs cover janitorial services.
“We give team members a choice,” Eisenberg says.
The park, which currently has about 600 workers, always is hiring.
Hiring now focuses on Happy Hauntings in the fall and Dutch Winter Wonderland during the holiday season.