Volunteerism Leads to New Career Directions

           Published June 15, 2012, Pawtucket Times

           A growing number of aging baby boomers who volunteer on nonprofit boards may find their true calling when they retire.  Volunteering in your later years may lead to new, more exciting careers where passion, energy and love of mission bring about opportunities to serve your community. 

           Fifty two-year old Kathy Anzeveno, who specialized in early childhood development, taught for over 27 years in North Providence and The Gordon School inEast Providence.   Despite raising Joe, her 21 year old son, with her husband, Frank, theSouth Kingstownresident worked for the past nine years as a volunteer for the Matty Fund.  She now serves as the full-time Executive Director of the Wakefield,Rhode Islandnonprofit group, whose mission is to provide family resources, promote patient safety and improve the quality of life for children and families living with epilepsy.

           Nationally, epilepsy affects over three million people. Children United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE) estimates that over 300,000 children with this disorder are under age 15, with up to 50,000 deaths occurring annually from prolonged seizures as well as seizure related accidents.

           According to Anzeveno, she made a decision to retire in her early fifties, and to make a difference in another area she was passionate about, one involving lifelong friends, Debra and Richard Siravo.  The Siravos lost their 5 year old son, Matthew, because of complications of epilepsy.  In recent years the organization had grown prompting the founders to need an Executive Director to oversee the implementation of the nonprofit group’s strategic plan, fundraise and implementation of its programs and services.  Over the years, the Siravos saw commitment and capability when Anzeveno came around to stuff envelopes, organize fundraisers and other activities.  The job offer was made…it was quickly accepted, too. 

          Anzeveno explained that the Siravos needed to do something positive in Matty’s memory that would allow families to connect personally with other families.  “The couple felt compelled to fulfill a need for families dealing with epilepsy.  For parents, there is nothing that compares to the suffering/guilt/uncertainty when a child is diagnosed with anything, let alone a potentially disabling disorder,” she said, stressing that some stigma is still attached to people with epilepsy, so parents are often times reluctant to share or acknowledge publically their child’s health issue.

         With years of volunteer work under her belt and expertise as an educator in child development, Anzeveno knew that there was an extreme need for the Matty Fund’s programs and services.  As a volunteer, she was especially touched by the families who, besides dealing their child experiencing regular and often severe seizures, had to tackle the added issues of developmental delays, physical impairments, as well as medication/treatment side effects.

The Matty Fund

         According to Anzeveno, from the tragedy of her personal, longtime friends, was born a foundation that truly helps families affected by epilepsy— started in the Siravo family basement, she remembers getting bruised from bumping into the foosball table while working on auction items for one of its first major fundraisers.  “We had donated items and sticky notes scattered everywhere,” she says.

        Five years ago, the fledgling nonprofit relocated from its basement headquarters to an office space in Wakefield, opening as a community resource center.  Anzeveno notes that just one month ago, The Matty Fund moved again, just down the hall to a larger space to accommodate its growing needs to serve as a hub for support groups, meetings and program activities.  Currently, there are 150 families in the nonprofit group’s data base, mostly Rhode Islanders. 

Assisting Young Children with Epilepsy

      Anzeveno and her volunteers will outreach to families with children with epilepsy, providing educational and emotional support.   Monthly group meetings will be held throughout theOceanState, in Lincoln, Warwick andWakefield.   Lecture series in acute care facilities will provide information to both families and health care professionals, too.

      The Matty Fund also holds a series of events including the Snow Angel Ball Dinner Dance and Auction, Matty’s 5k Run and Walk for Epilepsy, and the Matty’s Memorial Golf for Epilepsy, to fund the operations of the organization.   Funding also supports epilepsy research atBrownUniversity, providing scholarships for college bound students with epilepsy, as well as fundingCampMatty, a therapeutic riding summer day camp for youngsters with epilepsy.  Friendships are forged between families and their epileptic children at the pumpkin festival, egg hunts and at the Matty Hatty dance-athon held in schools around the state that promotes epilepsy awareness.  

            For many aging baby boomers, their job has just become a means to an end. In their later years they are working hard to economically keep afloat, to pay off a mortgage, to rising household costs, and to buy groceries.  Aging baby boomers know they will live a longer period of their lives in retirement then previous generations.  Like Anzeveno, many will seek out ways to become more fulfilled with their lives, by becoming a volunteer.  A new career path might even come about because they volunteered at a nonprofit, helping others and making their community a better place to live. 

          For more information about the Matty Fund call 401/789-7330 or go to www.MattyFund.org.

         Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who covers aging, healthcare, and medical issues.  His Commentaries are published in two Rhode Island Daily’s The Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call.

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