For Judy and Tom Spaulding, retirement was the perfect opportunity to give back to their community.
Having moved to Northeast Ohio four years ago, the Spauldings were left wondering how to get involved – until Judy attended a Jewish Federation of Cleveland volunteer fair and found InMotion, a Beachwood-based nonprofit organization that supports individuals living with Parkinson’s disease. There, she works the front desk checking in clients and scheduling them for classes. She also sometimes reads books for the Mandel Jewish Community Center’s Cleveland Jewish Book Festival and would like to get more involved.
As for her husband, Tom, he spends a lot of time at Holden Arboretum in Kirtland. After reading an article about it, Tom decided to visit. On his way home, he told his wife about his wish to volunteer there. After going through the interview and training process, Tom now helps monitor the bluebird population. Once of age, he also helps band them, which is the attachment of a small, individually numbered metal or plastic tag to the leg or wing of a wild bird to study and track them. Additionally, he helps monitor the arboretum’s trails to make sure they’re passable for visitors.
CJN: Why was volunteering the right retirement activity for you?
Judy: For me, it felt like something I wanted to do to give back. After over 40 years working, I didn’t want something full-time or that scheduled, because I wanted to be able to enjoy leading a life that is less scheduled. I wanted to be able to do things when I wanted. Volunteering, to me, was another way to give something to the community I’m living in.
Tom: My reasons are less altruistic. I wanted something to fill my time. I can only garden or bike so many hours a day, and that leaves a few more hours to fill. That was my main reason. But after learning about the bluebird population and how they were almost extinct in Ohio after being the most prominent bird in the state 100 years ago – it is because of programs like Holden Arboretum that they’re making a dramatic comeback. It’s nice to be part of a success story like that.
CJN: How does volunteering impact the community? Have you seen that impact?
Tom: For me and my fellow volunteers, we add up at the end of the season how many birds were hatched, fledged and banded. We monitor that process. When we started, it was about 20 birds a season and now it’s close to 400. We know it’s working because we can see that dramatic increase.
Judy: For me, it’s being part of an organization that I think is so worthwhile. When I see clients coming in and how much they’ve progressed and gained, it is very rewarding to do that.
CJN: What is your favorite part of volunteering?
Judy: It’s seeing the impact these activities have on people, especially at InMotion with people with Parkinson’s disease. They work with clients on all levels, including some who have just been diagnosed or others who are more advanced. I get pleasure out of the fact that there is a place people with Parkinson’s disease can go, meet other people and participate in support groups and learn to live and improve their lives.
Tom: Actually, helping the bluebirds is nice but I enjoy the outdoors. There is a lot of walking in fields with chest-high grass to get to the bluebird boxes. It’s not especially physically demanding, but it’s nice to get out a couple of times a week to tromp around the woods for a while.
As for the future of their retirement, Judy had specific goals – which includes traveling post-pandemic and spending time with their family.
“When we moved here, two grandsons lived here but now one is a young professional and the other is at college,” she said. “But, it is nice to have the flexibility to go back east and see our grandchildren when they are home. That is our lives.”
For her husband, Tom, plans aren’t as clear cut – but that’s the beauty of retirement, he said.
“I’d like to extend my retirement period for as long as possible,” he said, laughing. “By being active, and both of us are very active. We don’t feel our age. The whole idea is to keep busy and see what happens.”