Ed. — From the Sunday, Aug. 8, print edition.
BY ROSE DOUCETTE
BACK BAY — When I was in seventh grade, I needed volunteer hours for National Junior Honor Society, and the Senior Resource Center, Inc., in rural Virginia Beach was good enough to allow a 12-year-old kid on the premises.
I fell in love with the place during the three summertime months when I first volunteered. I was out of the house, spending time with lovely people and doing important work for the community.
I was incredibly disappointed when I had to stop volunteering and go back to school. I knew I would have to come back the next year.
And I did. But, during the third summer, the novel coronavirus pandemic hit right as my school year ended and I was about to return to the center as a volunteer.
The center, a social and community hub for rural communities such as mine and beyond, had to indefinitely shut down.
Given the circumstances and who Covid most endangered, it wasn’t surprising when I heard the center would close for what ended up being a year. It was slightly surreal and very sad. I passed last summer inside my house, as did the rest of the world.
Thankfully, the Senior Resource Center reopened this summer. I joyfully signed up for as many shifts as I could manage, and I pinned my name tag back on with pride. My return was glorious in that it was completely unremarkable. It was just another step back towards normalcy.
It was oddly thrilling to sit at the desk, answer the phone and get the mail.
The center was back, and its doors were wide open.
The only problem is that people haven’t fully returned to a center that provides real value to so many people.
Volunteers are critical to most public service organizations, especially a nonprofit such as the center. Johnnie Williams, president of the Senior Resource Center, told me it can be hard to find people who want to volunteer, though that work makes a big difference.
“The Senior Resource Center could not exist without volunteers,” he said. “No one gets paid at the SRC. All our volunteers are giving of themselves. Their time is priceless and a scarce commodity that money can’t buy.”
The center relies on volunteer workers and donations to function.
If people don’t fill shifts, the center cannot open to the public for classes, groups and other activities. During the week I wrote this in July, four three-hour shifts went unfilled. The center’s ability to serve the community relies completely on the will of the community to participate in keeping it open.
The Senior Resource Center makes a huge contribution to the local community, especially for our older generations.
“People really need to stay involved, particularly after they’re retired or no longer have a lot of family obligations,” said City Councilmember Barbara Henley, who represents the Princess Anne District. “They need to have something that’s meaningful and worthwhile, and the social interaction is extremely important.”
It’s important for our neighbors to have a place to meet others, host events, attend community meetings and participate in groups. It takes only a few hours a week to make a difference.
Having the people necessary to make that happen is the hardest part of sustaining a center that is an important part of our community. The Senior Resource Center needs volunteers. All are welcome.
The Senior Resource Center, Inc., is located at 912 Princess Anne Road. Learn more about volunteering there by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (757) 385-2175. You can also follow the center on Facebook via @VirginiaBeachSeniorResourceCenter.
The author, who lives in Back Bay, is a student at Kellam High School.
© 2021 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC