Story by Debra McTaggart, Give 5 coordinator
After Phil Hyde, age 77, worked in private practice as a clinical psychologist for 43 years, he retired and was invited to move to Spain to be near his son’s family. “I want to take care of you in your old age,” his son said, “and it would be easier if you were in Spain.” So, Phil went to Spain. In just six weeks he figured out, “This is not for me. I don’t speak Spanish, and I miss my friends in Oklahoma City.” He realized he hadn’t prepared himself for retirement. He wondered what’s next that would give purpose and meaning to his life.
When he received an email announcing the Give 5 program hosted in Oklahoma City by Healthy Living OKC, a wellness center for people 50+ where he’s a member, it seemed perfect for him. “It is so miraculous and so touching to be able to go behind the scenes of nonprofit organizations to see what they do and how I can help. It is a dream come true – a godsend.”
Give 5 is an innovative program that launched this year in Oklahoma City that lets retirees (or near-retirees) see firsthand where the community needs are, and then helps them volunteer there. Give 5 holds classes with about 20 “students” who meet once a week for five weeks at Healthy Living OKC. They get on a bus at each meeting and visit with more than a dozen nonprofits to get a close look at organizations that serve people to “move the needle” in some way related to one of the biggest challenges in Oklahoma and Oklahoma City – mental health. The nonprofits explain their mission and pitch the opportunities they offer volunteers. In other words, Give 5 shows them the “why” and the “how” of volunteering, not just the “what” and “where.”
How Give 5 Gets Retirees to Volunteer
And the students, like Phil, often get hooked. In other cities where the program has been in place, hundreds have gone through the program and graduates end up volunteering 18 hours a month, on average.
Graduating from the program on April 18, Phil plans to volunteer with not just one, but five organizations who need his experience and expertise from all those years in private practice: Big Brothers Big Sisters, which matches volunteer mentors (Bigs) with children (Littles) who need help with self-esteem, decision-making, and other areas of life; Wings Special Needs Community, which works to enhance the lives of adults with developmental disabilities; Positive Tomorrows, a school and social services agency specifically for children and families experiencing homelessness to give kids stability and a quality education while giving their parents the support they need to create a better life; Family Builders, which works to stop the cycle of abuse and family violence by targeting the source of the abuse, the abuser, and providing him or her with tools for building healthy relationships, and TEEM (The Education and Employment Ministry) which is dedicated to breaking cycles of incarceration and poverty through education, personal development, and work readiness training.
Phil says, “I believe there is a place to use my listening and encouraging skills to help other people. For example, as a Big Brother I hope to interact with a young male in a way that I can help prevent him from getting derailed as he continues to grow up.”
Give 5 started in 2017 as the brainchild of Greg Burris, a former city manager of Springfield, Missouri and Cora Scott, director of public information and civic engagement for Springfield. The name Give 5 comes from conversations Burris had with retirees. When he’d asked if they’d like to volunteer, many said, “No,” thinking he wanted them to give 40-hours a week. Burris would respond: “How about five hours a month?” They’d always say: “Yes.”
Now Burris and Scott have expanded the Give 5 model to other communities. In Oklahoma City, Give 5 is hosted by Healthy Living OKC, a wellness center for age 50+ whose mission is to promote the health and wellbeing of adults age 50 and older by providing opportunities for physical activity, social engagement, and lifelong learning.
“We started the program in Oklahoma City in November 2021 by inviting more than 50 nonprofit organizations to an informational meeting,” said Debra McTaggart, the program’s coordinator for Healthy Living OKC, “and then early this year we began recruiting the volunteer participants. Our inaugural class began March 14 and graduation was April 18.”
Give 5’s McTaggart admits she failed at retirement; she retired two years ago and after cleaning out every closet at home—twice, she came into Healthy Living OKC to join and register for some activities like painting that she’d never had time to do in her past work life. A few days later when Healthy Living OKC learned of her professional background, they recruited her for their executive assistant position and then asked her to implement the Give 5 program.
“The program is awesome. I’ve followed the implementation process according to Burris and Scott, and it has worked like a charm. We found that the Give 5 program has been welcomed in Oklahoma City by our participating nonprofits. We recruit the talent for them, and they have a massive need for volunteers,” said McTaggart.
Key to the Give 5 program’s success is the volunteers matching their particular skills with the volunteer needs of nonprofits. Retirees who’ve gone through Give 5 don’t want to simply greet people at an event or send out mailings. They want to harness their experience and abilities for the greater good.
Put somewhat differently, volunteering is like dating — a search for the right match. Give 5 allows both parties to find the right fit.
As a result of learning about nonprofits in OKC during Give 5 program implementation, McTaggart, formerly a training developer and facilitator in her past career, has become a volunteer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) herself. She has been trained to deliver one of NAMI’s many education programs that helps ensure everyone affected by mental illness can build better lives.
3 Reasons Behind Give 5
The Executive Director for the host organization of the Oklahoma City Give 5, Claire Dowers-Nichols provided an explanation for the three social and economic forces behind the need for a program like Give 5:
America’s population is aging, with some 10,000 boomers turning 65 every day. Many of them are skilled and knowledgeable, but clueless about local volunteer opportunities. Nonprofits increasingly need to tap into their talents to accomplish their mission. “We find [older] people aren’t really sure what they could be doing,” Dowers-Nichols says. “Learning about nonprofits and volunteering can help restore that sense of purpose and identity that gives meaning to life.”
Meaningful volunteering keeps retirees connected to the community — critical for staving off the health threats of social isolation and loneliness that so many retired people face. “When you retire, your community involvement frequently decreases. It’s easy to become isolated,” says Dowers-Nichols. “Over the last few years we have learned more about the dangers of social isolation and loneliness among older adults and the benefits of engagement and purpose.”
The Benefits for Local Nonprofits
Getting skilled volunteers also helps the nonprofits expand their efforts. That’s been the experience at TEEM. “The Give 5 program participants have been a huge help to TEEM, and it all started during the program itself,” says Matt Staples, TEEM Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator. “Having the class tour our building and sit down with our participants greatly impacted the people we serve because it showed someone cared about them. Then days later, the graduates that chose TEEM helped us reach our goal of providing over 1,300 cards and cookies to incarcerated women on Mother’s Day. They have served us multiple times, helping organize our clothing closet and much more! We are thankful to the civic matchmaking program that is Give 5 for introducing us to those wonderful volunteers!”
The Next Class
Another class will be conducted this year and four classes are planned for 2024. Class 2 begins for the Give 5 program on September 13. Those wanting to volunteer as well as nonprofits who’d like to participate can apply at: https://healthylivingokc.com/programs/the-give-5-program/ (coming soon www.Give5OKC.com).