The Best Of…Volunteer Baby Boomers Work to Uplift Their Communities

           Published September 17, 2008, All Pawetucket All the Time

           Throughout his life, Arthur Plitt has never seen a time when he has not expended lots of time and energy to support a good cause.  Over his fifty eight years, he has volunteered as a non-paid volunteer with dozens of nonprofit organizations throughout the Ocean State. The Oak Hill resident juggles a part-time job as a private mediator while allocating countless hours to his volunteer activities. 

             Two sons in Cub Scouts would propel the young man to take the volunteer position of Advancement Committee, chairman of the Boy Scouts of Rhode Island’s BlackstoneValley division.  A love of animals would also lead him to Roger Williams Zoo where he became a docent.  Plitt would also join the Rhode Island Jaycees and serve in its Senate and later work as an ombudsman for the Alliance for Better Long-Term Care.

 Kudos the Plitt

            Plitt now sits on the Governor’s Commission on Disabilities, heads the Pawtucket Neighborhood Alliance, and Oak Hill Neighborhood Association, serves on the Blackstone Watershed Council’s Board of Directors, and sits on the Pawtucket Arts Festival Executive Committee.  Still, the aging baby boomer still has time to work with the terminally ill as a Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island volunteer.  With 1,220 hours logged in this year supporting dying patients and their families it is no surprise that he was one of 12 statewide award winners of the Volunteer Center of Rhode Island’s 2008 outstanding volunteers.

             Plitt’s philosophical views on volunteerism can be simply summed up by his favorite phrase. That is, “The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough.”  “Butterflies, like many species, accomplish much in their short life spans.  With longer life spans, human beings are given an opportunity to accomplish a lot more and they have the time to share”, says Plitt.    

             While Plitt works with a diverse group of nonprofit organizations, fifty-four year old Patricia Zacks focuses her time and efforts on supporting the arts in Pawtucket.  Over the years, this proprietor of the Providence-based camera shop, The Camera Werks has annually organized the City’s photo contest, brought photo workshops into several public schools and senior centers.  In addition, she serves on the Board of the Friends of Excellence in Art Education, chairs the Pawtucket Arts Festival’s Program Committee and sits on its Executive Committee, and assists and networks local artists to sell their one-of-a-kind art work at Open Studio events.

             In 2007, in recognition of her efforts to support Pawtucket artists Zacks was named President Emeritus of the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative when she stepped down after serving six years. That Year the Pawtucket Foundation the Oak Hill resident was the co-recipient of the group’s prestigious “Person of the Year” award. 

 Baby Boomers Volunteer at Higher Rates 

             Aging Baby Boomers, Plitt and Zacks, are not unique in their desire to give back to their local community.  According to a 2006 Issue Brief published by the Corporation for National & Community Service (NCS), today’s Baby Boomers volunteer at a higher rate than past generations did at roughly the same age.  Findings from the 2007 Keeping Baby Boomers Volunteering (KBBV) report were cited throughout this NCS Issue Brief.

             The 2007 (KBBV) report noted that the volunteer rate for those ages 46 to 57 today, is significantly higher than both the 25.3 percent recorded by the 46 to 57 age cohort in 1974 (Greatest Generation, born 1910-1930) and the 23.2 percent recorded in 1989 (Silent Generation, born 1931-1945.)

             Additionally, the 2007 (KBBV) report also found that remaining in the workforce increased the likelihood that a Baby Boomer will continue to volunteer. 60.5 percent Baby Boomer volunteers who leave the workforce will continue to volunteer the following year compared to 69.3 percent who continue to work.

             The 2007 (KBBV) report also mentions two predictors of the relatively high volunteer rates of Baby Boomers: high education level and having children later in life. 

             Middle age adults are nearly three times likely to have a four-year college degree today.  When their children leave home the Boomers would maintain their high volunteer rates because of their high education levels and expectations that they will work longer, the report notes.

            The 2007 (KBBV) report notes that today’s Boomers, ages 41 to 59, are more likely to volunteer with religious organizations. The second most popular place to volunteer is educational or youth service organizations.

          Finally, the (KBBV) 2007 report findings indicate that the more hours a Baby Boomer devotes to volunteering, the more like he or she will volunteer throughout their lives.  Nearly 9 of 10 Baby Boomer volunteers who serve 100 to 499 hours a year volunteer again the following year, compared to just over 5 in 10 who serve 1 to 14 hours.

             Aging Baby Boomers Plitt and Zacks have brought their life experiences, time and energy to making their community a better place to live, just like millions of their Baby Boomer cohorts throughout the nation. 

             For more information about volunteering contact Volunteer Center of Rhode Island.  Go to www.vcri.org.

             Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based free lance writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues.   This article was published in the September 17, 2008 issue of All Pawtucket All the Time. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

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