After working at the Monsignor Clarke School in Wakefield for 27 years, Peggy McLoughlin retired to spend more time with her family. Her strong belief in the Catholic principle of helping others has moved Peggy to continue giving back to those less fortunate in her community. Since retiring 15 years ago, Peggy has been driving seniors to their medical appointments and subbing in as a driver for Meals on Wheels through Southern Rhode Island Volunteers.
Since most of Peggy's children and grandchildren live out of state, she is often on the road. Finding a flexible volunteer opportunity was key.
“From my perspective having the flexibility to be able to say, ‘Gee I can’t do that transport, is important’” notes Peggy. “Different things come up in your life, at least for me, where I couldn’t devote a lot of time to volunteering. Flexibility worked for me. But it’s also necessary to have permanent people especially for Meals on Wheels.”
She advises prospective volunteers is to try a flexible opportunity first and see how it works out. If it is a positive experience Peggy suggests committing to a more formal schedule, if time allows.
Learning from others
Peggy transitioned from working with children to the opposite end of the spectrum - the aging population. These two groups are very different to work with Peggy notes, but admits it’s a lot easier to work with seniors than keeping with the energy levels of second graders.
“You meet so many interesting people and sometimes get people to talk about what their lives have been like,” Peggy said. “It always amazes me when you get people who are 94 or 95 years old still living on their own and being pretty self sufficient. That’s pretty amazing to me.”
As a senior herself, Peggy knows the realities that many people face as they age, including isolation, physical limitations, plus trouble accessing food, financial and health resources.
“Volunteering has made me aware of how very fortunate I am in terms of still having good health at this age and how lucky I have been financially as well. So many of these people have a very difficult time,” said Peggy.
One of the biggest lessons she’s learned didn’t come from a classroom, but through the seniors she's met over the years. Despite some people’s misfortunes, Peggy notes that most individuals she drove over the past 15 years were very pleasant and thankful to be helped.
“They have taught me that you are so much better off to make the best of every situation you know just try to be an optimist. I think it’s those optimistic people who live longer really. Unless of course there is a major health issue.”
Volunteering goes both ways
Volunteering isn’t just a way to give back to your community it also helps the volunteer stay active. Providing countless benefits for one’s mind and body.
“From my perspective it keeps me active. I think that when you get into retirement it’s important to keep your mind active and your self active. Through volunteering that’s one great way to help yourself as well as helping others.”
When Peggy isn’t spending time with her family, or volunteering, she enjoys quilting and gardening at home, despite claiming she does not have a “green thumb.” Peggy is also a busy member of the Social Outreach Committee for the Saint Francis of Assisi in Wakefield assisting with fundraisers and food drives.