Giving back when others often just give up

Giving back when others often just give up
Gail Atchley, Christine Teyssier, Jill Sprunt

Traditionally viewed as that time of life when the rocking chair was pretty much all that a retiree looked forward to, now – thanks to better health and greater opportunities – more and more seniors are out the door and on the go.

When they are “seniors on a mission” it’s even better – for them and for the community.
Four local women, age 69 to 80, shared why they look forward to getting together at least once a month for fellowship and to do some “grunt work” for the good of the community.

Jill Sprunt, a member of Ortega United Methodist Church, takes local mission trips with Seniors on a Mission (SOAM). The nonprofit offers services to more than 50 other community nonprofit organizations to help them keep costs down by stuffing race day bags, assembling mailings, and working at Teacher Supply Depot sorting, counting and repackaging donated school supplies.

Last year 325 men and women took 102 mission trips totaling 10,394 hours’ worth more than $230,000 in hourly labor. Although it’s light manual labor, the work helps seniors stay active and involved.

“We supply a lot of the time that it would take a paid worker to do and we have such fellowship and fun,” said Sprunt. “It keeps us busy. We love being together each time we meet.”

Christine Teyssier, who has been part of SOAM for four years through the Ortega UMC group, said that while it’s tiring it’s also rewarding.

“It’s just a great thing to get out and do something instead of just sitting in the house,” Teyssier said. “It’s a lot of work but we do it with joy and I feel great about doing this. If someone’s missing, you know it.”

Another member of the Ortega contingent, Gail Atchley has been going on the trips for nearly five years. “It’s a worthwhile cause,” she said. “It gets seniors out and involved, doing something for the community.” In addition to work at Teacher Supply Depot, Atchley also mends clothing for the Clothing Warehouse and helps stuff race day bags.

The mission trips are also an opportunity for someone new to the area to develop friendships. Pat Warner moved into the Florida Christian Apartments two years ago and noticed the 36-passenger bus picking people up at the Murray Hill complex. Curious, she thought she would see what it was all about.

“I enjoy pretty much all of the trips, but one day I had to cut plastic bags and ended up with blisters…not my favorite,” Warner shared. Blisters aside, “It makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile,” she said. “It gives me a feeling that I’m doing something to help people.”

Warner noted that while she doesn’t know very many people in her apartment building, Seniors on a Mission has given her the opportunity to make new friends and do something worthwhile.

“I’m trying to give back at a time when other people just give up,” concluded Warner.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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