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How a Retiree Found New Purpose Helping Homeless Young Adults

She thought she and her husband were retiring to enjoy the good life. The life she found is better than she imagined.

Kathy recognizes herself in many of the young adults she has helped.

In getting homeless youth off the streets, Kathy Tillotson found that volunteering benefits not only those being helped but the volunteers as well. That’s something the people at Good Samaritan Society–Ambassador, in New Hope, Minnesota, have experienced. We talked to them about how volunteering does you good:

1. It gives you new purpose. This is especially true for people who feel lost when their working days are over. George Rosch came to Ambassador as a rehab patient after brain and spinal injuries landed him in a wheelchair, ending his career as a truck driver. “He was very depressed,” says customer engagement coordinator Barb Burger. “He had no idea how to find meaning in life. I reminded him God works in mysterious ways. We were looking for a concierge, and I thought, Who better to talk to patients than someone who’s been through it?”

Rosch is now in his fifth year as a full-time volunteer. “I do many different things here, and I love it all,” he says. “It feels good to know I can help other people. This is my job now.”

2. It improves mental and physical health. Volunteering helped Rosch recover from depression and traumatic brain injury. Studies have shown that seniors who volunteer have fewer physical limitations, less depression and better cognitive function than nonvolunteers.

3. It lets you meet people. Social interaction is vital to well-being. Rose Marie “Toots” Holland, a resident at Ambassador, packs nutritious weekend snacks for local elementary students and makes fleece blankets for women in shelters. “My husband passed away, and I need to keep myself busy,” she says. “It’s fun to meet the other ladies volunteering.”

4. It helps you develop new skills. Georgia Helvick, originally a pet therapy volunteer, liked the seniors at Ambassador so much, she asked her church to do more outreach there. “‘Sure,’ they said, ‘but you’ll have to lead the ministry.’ That was new for me!” she says. Rosch, meanwhile, went from not wanting to touch the computer to “I can do this!” His tasks now include scanning documents.

5. It helps you grow spiritually. Volunteers find their compassion for and interest in others deepen. Rosch says he’s become “more understanding, more caring toward people.” Helvick adds, “You can’t tell from the outside what an interesting life someone has led. You only find out when you sit down and talk to them.”

Visit good-sam.com/guideposts to learn how volunteering benefits both the volunteers and their communities and to watch a video about George Rosch’s accident and recovery.

For more inspiring stories, subscribe to Guideposts magazine.

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