Oklahoma City is a charitable city. Last year, the Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked Oklahoma City as the seventh most charitable major metropolitan area in the country.
And many of those volunteers come from what journalist Tom Brokaw called “the Greatest Generation,” that group of men and women who survived the Great Depression and World War II.
Thirty-four percent of Oklahoma County residents volunteer regularly, which totals about 220,000 people, said Beth Patterson, executive director of RSVP, or Retired Senior Volunteer Program, which places interested volunteers age 55 and older.
Some of the volunteers are making a difference well into their 90s, including Dottie Lammerts, a founder and active volunteer with Animal Rescue Friends of Nichols Hills, and Faye Flowers, who collects and makes items for those in need.
Statistics show that volunteers are less isolated and have a higher sense of self-worth, Patterson said.
RSVP works with 125 nonprofits to find places for seniors to volunteer, doing activities including working on community gardens, teaching children to read, driving people to doctors' appointments, helping food pantries and more.
“When you retire, you've got about 50 hours on your hands every week, and there are so many needs in our community that can utilize volunteers,” Patterson said.
Pam Scheer, manager of volunteers for Mercy Health Center, agrees. She works with 272 active volunteers at Mercy, with an average age of about 74.
“I've got two 94s, a 93 and a 90,” she said of their ages.
“They came from that ‘Great Generation' where they ... were trained to give. They have a heart for ministry, whether it's at their church or at the hospital or reading to kids, and they all want to give back to the community.”