Fresh from Co-Chairing the Spirit of Helen Keller Gala again last spring, I threw out this question for your reflection: “What is the most satisfying volunteer job you’ve had, or have, and what made, or makes, it rewarding? ” Here’s what came back:
Evelyn Brown: “Wow, this one is easy! I worked at Camp Shriver, the pre-cursor of the Special Olympics, for the four years I was in high school. Working with people then called mentally retarded (now intellectually challenged) opened my eyes to all the everyday stuff I took for granted. I could probably write a book about all the great things I liked about this experience–interacting with the Kennedy clan (I was/am a huge fan), learning life-lessons from Rose Kennedy over picnic lunches, being outdoors all day, playing with the kids, coaching them, teaching them. But the thing I still carry in my heart is the smile on the face of a camper who “got it” and had a success — no matter how small it seemed to me, it was huge for the camper. After volunteering at Camp Shriver, I knew that my ultimate goal in life is to try to make life better for those who don’t have it as convenient as I do. Unfortunately, I got side-tracked while earning a pay check. But, fortunately, now I am getting back on track and getting a real kick out of it.”
Diane St. Cyr Francis: “I was appointed to the Conservation Commission in Braintree, MA in Feb. 2010. I find it very rewarding to work to preserve our wetlands and other water resources in our community. This position helps me continue my interest in science. We consider issues such as open space, storm drainage, and invasive species. I was encouraged to apply for the position by another Smithie, Gail Poliner Feldman, ’60.
Lauran Yates: “I’ve been planting flowers and shrubs in my subdivision entrance for many years. I enjoy gardening, and I get to visit with many of the neighbors. I’ve also been volunteering for the National Symphony Orchestra. We do “instrument petting zoos” for the children when they come for Kinderkonzerts. I usually help the children try to play the trumpet. It is great fun meeting the children and parents.”
Nancy Ashton: “Great question on volunteer rewards. I’ve done more kinds of volunteering than I can list, and continue that today. The most rewarding contributions were when I was really making a difference to actual people, whether that was reading to primary school children in a poor city school, or advocating for children in child protective services, or talking with a woman on hospice, or working on a house for a Habitat for Humanity recipient.”
Lee Poulos Dailey: “I am having a wonderful retirement, volunteering at local theater and cultural centers: Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor with three summer shows including one by David Mamet and one of Langford Wilson’s, Guild Hall in East Hampton where Alec Baldwin and Livingston Taylor are on the schedule and the LongHouse Reserve a 16 acre sculpture garden in East Hampton. I also volunteer at the local library. Although most of the volunteers are at least ten years older than I am, it is lots of fun and a great way to meet locals. I also “volunteer” at the local Unitarian Universalist group where I am a co-envoy to the UU-United Nations Organization for the local social justice committee.”
Libbet Cone: “Parenting has been the most satisfying volunteer job for me, because of the love, i guess. and the incredible challenges and opportunities for personal growth..watching theirs and seeing my own.”
Sue Begg: “I would say being a volunteer firefighter for my small city of Ithaca, N.Y. I recently “retired” from the department last week after 21 years of service. It required a lot of training time and in-station duty time but I loved it! I would have kept going except with the increasingly demanding OSHA, state and federal requirements for being an “emergency responder” I couldn’t keep up and still do my regular job as a merchant marine officer as I was not home enough to meet all the training requirements. Now I am casting about for a new volunteer position in my community.”
Finally, two weddings that I am very late in reporting! From Carol Jones Guthrie: “Helen Heard Hetherington‘s daughter Holly was married September 19th, 2009 in Watch Hill , RI…a beautiful, traditional wedding on a perfect, sunny weekend. Her Smith bridesmaids were all there…me, Nancy Fitzpatrick McKenna and Kathy Wies Dietz. Nancy, Kathy and I played tennis while Helen primped. It was so special to be together for this…Smithies still make the best company.” And from Betsy Delman: “My son, Jameson’s, wedding back in October 2009 was the catalyst for a mini Smith reunion, when my two Haven House suite mates and their husbands attended the event here in Chicago. Susan Lopez Woodrow and her husband Bill, along with Helen Marvel Strong and her husband Carter, honored me with their presence for the wedding weekend. We simply couldn’t get enough of each other and spent those precious couple of days catching up on one another’s lives and families, reliving our Haven House antics, and fondly remembering our long ago days on the Smith campus as if they were yesterday. 60 may be the reality, but being with Smithies makes me feel as though I am 19 again!”
On that wonderful note, keep in touch!
Just after column deadline I received word of Lisa Connor’s death. Lisa’s obituary is in this issue; below are wonderful recollections from Lamont friends.
Kim Albright: “I was in awe of Lisa from the start. I remember the first weekend, when I was still trying to figure out how to get to downtown Northampton, Lisa was off to Williams, using up one of her four precious weekends away right off the bat! I also remember her making Connor Connors, those sledgehammer cocktails with blue curacao and vodka, and crushing the ice by putting it in a cloth bag and whapping it against the wall outside her room.
And how she and Kathy Curley used to play catch in the backyard, they’d both brought their own mitts.”
Anne Walker Cleveland: “Will and I spent countless hours listening to Lisa’s stories, dinking wine with her, attending her wedding and a few house parties in New Jersey, and then, fortunately, we overlapped when we lived in San Francisco.”
Ruth Elsesser: “Lisa was an amazing woman and she brought us together back at Smith and now in our 60th year. I can easily imagine her smiling about us communicating together.”
Katy Flowers Gerke: “Lisa was a larger-than-life force, and she was a great friend during college. She made much good of a difficult life situation.”
Merryn Rutledge: “We had so many, many good times together while in Lamont House. Lisa befriended me on my first day at Smith, introduced me to New York City and Cape Cod, stayed up late talking about everything in the world and later helped me to my first understandings of the mental illness/disability systems in this country.
She was, as Katy Gerke says, ‘a force’–in friendship, compassion, large and creative thinking, and system change.”
Diane Garton Edie: “Although we’re all turning 60 right about now, Lisa will forever be pictured in my mind like this: Zipping in or out of Lamont House in her blue Smith gym outfit with her shiny brunette hair swinging in the breeze, her face tan (maybe with help from those hand-held aluminum glare-enhancers!), and a big smile (with frosted lipstick) ready to share a laugh.”
Lissy Ziesing Sheehy; “It was a beautiful photo in the NYTimes 2/24/10; just like the vibrant Lisa we knew at Lamont. And here I am worrying about turning 60…”
Dierdre Wilson Garton spearheaded a Lamont House gift to the Alumnae Fund in Lisa’s memory; to me the week was a reminder of the gift of friendship, and ‘72 at its best.
Mary Lindley Burton