Chief Volunteer: Giving Back, Making a Difference

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During my two-year post as AARP’s President, I’ll be reporting here regularly on what I’m hearing and learning from the most interesting people in the world – AARP’s members and volunteers all over the country – and from the events and activities I have the privilege of addressing in my new position as chief volunteer spokesperson.

“If it weren’t for Medicare, we’d be bankrupt, or I’d be dead.” I heard this powerful testimonial from a woman at a Tulsa senior center on a recent AARP visit. Another woman told how she, as a young mother, was able to feed and clothe her family only with the help of Social Security survivors’ benefits after her husband died suddenly.

For her, and for me, Medicare and Social Security are deeply personal.

My dad died before I was born, and my mom raised my sister and me on seamstress wages and monthly checks from Social Security survivors’ benefits.

The first in my family to go to college, I financed my education through scholarships, three jobs, and National Student Defense Loans.

As much as those experiences shaped me, a life-threatening boat accident had an even greater impact. I survived, but only through a miraculous rescue.  This sobering event challenges me every day to ask, “Am I doing all I can with the second chance I’ve been given?”

Volunteering with AARP’s board of directors, and as president, make it easier to say “Yes” to that question.

Listening to our members and volunteers, and receiving the great gift of their stories, is the best part of my job.

They’ve told me about their struggle to find decent jobs, how they wrestle with caregiving challenges, the joys of grandparenting, the fulfillment of volunteering, and about the hard work they do day in and day out to provide health care and financial security for their families.

Listening to them guides the board in helping them navigate life’s realities.

As I begin my term as AARP president I will work each and every day to make sure every voice is heard.

Rob Romasco

Photo credit: WAstateDNR – Department of Natural Resources on Flickr.