GCC offers seniors chance to volunteer

  • Greenfield Community College is launching a new program in September to provide seniors with volunteer opportunities. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 8/13/2019 10:26:50 PM

GREENFIELD — When September rolls around, Greenfield Community College students will find local seniors greeting them at the welcome desk, working in the garden and conversing with English language learners.

It’s all part of a new program that GCC is launching to provide seniors with volunteer opportunities. Associate Dean of Student Development and Program Coordinator Judy Raper said there will be a lot of opportunities, including supporting alumni events and mentoring students.

The GCC Senior Volunteer Program builds upon a history of engaging seniors in the community that began in 2002 when former GCC administrator Risky Case collaborated with former Dean for Community Education Bob Barba to create the Senior Symposia, a way for seniors to learn in retirement. The City of Greenfield has joined the partnership by providing the John Zon Community Center as the symposia’s new home, where there is plenty of parking and easy accessibility.

The next symposia season kicks off in February, and will cover a range of topics from history, science, politics, architecture and current events.

The Senior Volunteer Program will be facilitated in collaboration with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program of the Pioneer Valley, which has worked with volunteers and organizations to meet the community’s most pressing needs since 1973.

According to population estimates from 2018, 22 percent of the people living in Franklin County are 65 years old or older. That means by 2030, it is estimated that 31.5 percent will be older than 65.

Raper said that as the number of seniors in the region increases, it is imperative that GCC develop opportunities to meaningfully engage a population that has contributed talent and time to the community for decades.

The new program will provide students with a broader network of support and connections in the community, and they will have the opportunity to build multi-generational relationships and practice critical soft skills essential to a balanced education and success in the workplace.

“This program is closely aligned with our mission, which reads, in part, ‘Lives change for the better every day at Greenfield Community College. Families grow stronger, and so too, does our community,’” Raper said. “Seniors in the region have long been an integral part of the GCC learning community.

“The volunteer program adds another layer of relationship for our students and allows for cross-generational learning and enrichment,” she continued. “Relationships such as these are vital to the success of our students, and will be meaningful for those seniors who participate.”

The college will also be holding a Senior Summit in the Cohn Family Dining Commons on Oct. 24 from 9:30 to 11 a.m. The summit will gather feedback from local seniors and those who work with them about programs and learning opportunities GCC can offer to meet their needs.

“Our older adults are vital members of our community, and have expressed a desire to continue to be engaged with each other and with younger generations,” GCC President Yves Salomon-Fernandez said. “The Senior Summit will provide an opportunity to hear, beyond the small group that we’ve engaged in the last year, about the kinds of lifelong learning opportunities and programming our community wants. We’re excited for it.”

For more information about becoming a senior volunteer, call Raper at 413-775-1819 or email her at: raperj@gcc.mass.edu. You can also visit: gcc.mass.edu/seniors.

Reach Anita Fritz at
413-772-0261, ext. 269 or afritz@recorder.com.


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