There are as many types of retirement as there are retirees, and, for some, the lure of sunhats and lounge chairs is not as enticing as the pull of volunteerism. This is true for long-time Federal Retirees member and volunteer, Julie Spencer.
Spencer has been a member and supporter of the National Association of Federal Retirees since 2002, when she retired from the Canada Revenue Agency after 25 years of service. Not interested in a conventional retirement, she was quick to offer her services to her local branch, Central Okanagan. Upon joining, Spencer was pleasantly surprised to receive a call from a volunteer welcoming her and inviting her to the next branch meeting. “If there is anything I can do to help…,” she remembered saying on the phone. “Within two months I had a seat on the board of directors for the branch and the rest is history!”
Currently serving as the branch services co-ordinator (BSC) for the Eastern B.C. Region, Spencer enjoys liaising with branches and working with her colleagues to plan successful meetings and events. When discussing her fellow volunteers, she remarks on their incredible commitment to the Association, and it is apparent that she is truly proud of the Federal Retirees volunteer network. “We come from many different backgrounds of employment and many different levels of success, yet we work together seamlessly in supporting our common purpose,” she said.
Volunteering in retirement is a win-win proposition according to Spencer and volunteering for Federal Retirees is just icing on the cake. “On one side, having the opportunity to help out in some way is emotionally rewarding; while on the other side, having the opportunity to attend functions, to travel, to meet new people, to make new friends and to enrich my life in retirement is most certainly a benefit,” she said. “This applies to many volunteer opportunities, but never as much as volunteering with the Association”.
For Spencer, volunteerism has been nothing short of a calling. She has been an avid volunteer since her youth and is quick to comment on its far-reaching benefits. “Right from the early days in the school library, volunteerism helped with self-esteem and confidence. And in retirement it has filled my life in ways never expected,” she said. Volunteerism has, in many ways, been a thread running through Spencer’s life and some of her fondest memories from her early childhood are of her parents volunteering and making a difference in their community. “Volunteerism is apparently in my genes,” she added.
Her efforts are testament to the fact that, even in retirement, many federal public servants continue to strive to make Canada better. And, as it happens, Federal Retirees is not the only organization for which Spencer has volunteered since retiring — far from it! She has also volunteered as a reviewer for Canada’s Volunteer Awards as well as a board member for Crime Stoppers and a tax preparer for her community income-tax volunteer program among many other roles.
In the late 90s, Spencer and her partner, Bob, made the decision to answer a call for volunteers for the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics in Australia. After two years of waiting for the application process to conclude, she received news that she was accepted. “What an adventure,” she reminisced. She considers the experience one of the most exciting and memorable of her life and, in addition to her work supporting the Olympics, the experience of being heartily welcomed by the locals was a highlight. She and her husband were invited into the homes of local volunteers for meals and taken on personal tours of the beautiful Australian countryside.
It is not surprising that Spencer considers the hospitality and attentiveness of her hosts a high point of her time in Australia because she brings that same personal touch to her volunteerism with the Association. Making new members feel welcome is vital to her approach and she encourages other volunteers to do the same. She added that inviting a new member out for a coffee or hosting meet-and-greet events with branch board members can make all the difference. “Making a person feel welcome in-person goes a whole lot farther than a quick phone call,” she said.
With the increasing number of lonely and isolated retirees and seniors, Spencer’s hospitality and warmth are more important than ever before. She doesn’t mind going above and beyond to encourage others to get involved because she has seen the rewards of her efforts firsthand and knows the power of a one-on-one connection. “We all know the No. 1 reason why volunteers seldom step up at the beginning – ‘no one asked me.’”
Though the social aspects of her volunteering pay dividends both for her and for those who benefit from her cordiality, her desire to take on a more involved role within the Association is rooted in her belief in the cause. “When I realized that branches are a crucial part of keeping both our members and our government representatives informed and engaged, I decided to contribute by volunteering,” she began. “Over the years I have seen how the various campaigns have made a significant difference to both our members and to all Canadians.”
In honour of National Volunteer Week, we’d like to sincerely thank Julie Spencer for her dedication to the National Association of Federal Retirees and for speaking to us so candidly about it. To all our amazing volunteers, please know that your commitment and tireless efforts are the foundation of our successes. We couldn’t do it without you. To learn more about volunteering with us, visit our Volunteer page or reach out to your local branch. If you are a volunteer with Federal Retirees and you have a story to tell, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.