by Sheila McCormick
I started exploring other volunteer options in October 2020, when I stepped down from the Board of the Friends of the Oakland Public Library. In 2016 or so, I had heard a presentation from the UC-Berkeley Retirees Association that had mentioned Ashby Village. What is Ashby Village? It is not a residential facility, and it is not on Ashby Avenue. Ashby Village is a non-profit organization whose mission is to connect older adults from all backgrounds and economic means with each other, and to help them remain active, engaged, and age with dignity and purpose in their homes and communities. Ashby Village provides practical services and resources for members, but also sponsors speaker events, social activities, interest and discussion groups, and more, for both members and volunteers – these days mostly on Zoom, but soon in person again. Members and volunteers live in many East Bay cities: Richmond, El Cerrito, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, and many members are also volunteers.
I began volunteering in March 2021, joining the Communications Committee because of my editing and writing experience. Mostly I curate a list of online and free educational events, as well as a diverse selection of daily music videos, part of an email that is sent to members and volunteers every Sunday morning (I also cross-list events of local interest on the Splash Pad Calendar). I love scrolling Eventbrite and other websites for possibilities!
Last spring and summer I also tried out several other volunteer tasks. It is easy to be a volunteer – after filling out an application and completing volunteer training on Zoom, you can opt in to volunteer for different categories of practical services or tasks, and then every morning you get an email with member requests in your categories. Once you claim a request, Ashby Village provides the member’s phone number or email so you can make arrangements directly with them. In my case, I signed up for grocery shopping, walking buddy, phone buddy, decluttering visits, and computer help. All were interesting, and I enjoyed meeting or talking with the members. The decluttering visits were my favorite – although my house could use the same help! There are many other volunteer opportunities in the office and with program teams throughout the organization.
The next informational “Living Room Chat” about membership is on March 14, 2:00-3:00pm; send an email to email@example.com to receive the Zoom link. To learn more about volunteering, contact the Volunteer Services Coordinator Jessica Sterling (firstname.lastname@example.org). And if you are interested in learning about where other such villages are in California, here’s a map.
Sheila McCormick is an Adjunct Professor Emerita in Cal’s Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. Prior to her retirement in January 2016, she had a research lab at the USDA/ARS-UC-Berkeley Plant Gene Expression Center in Albany, studying the molecular biology of plant reproduction. She currently posts our monthly calendar and is a frequent contributor to the Splash Pad News, beginning with a series of seven neighborhood walks – the first of which was posted in April 2017.