Tom Hamlin has been a volunteer in our Elder Financial Safety Center since 2022. He currently serves as a Money Management Volunteer, helping to support and promote independence for adults 60+ who are experiencing financial difficulties. He sat down with us to talk about his experiences. His final thoughts on what to expect when volunteering were a profound statement on life so be sure to read to the end!
What brought you to the Senior Source? How did you learn about us and want to volunteer?
I’m partial to seniors. I’ve done volunteer work with children, which was great, but I’m really partial to seniors. It’s probably because of my grandmother. And now I’m a real-life septuagenarian.
I think a 75-year-old is just as vulnerable as a five-year-old and, I don’t have any numbers on this, but I don’t think there are as many safety nets for seniors as for little ones. I don’t like to see seniors being taken advantage of when it comes to things like scams and fraud. One of my clients was a victim of a romance scam. I know how easy it is to be deceived. Not all older adults are aware of the emotional and financial dangers the scam artists can cause. Many of them, especially the widows, don’t have a family support system. They’re just at the mercy of some crafty characters, and I don’t like that. That’s why I wanted to volunteer with The Senior Source to earn their friendship and their trust and then help them with their issues.
What has been your most memorable experience volunteering with us?
I have taken my seven-year-old grandson along with me to visit my client, Mr. W, and the friendship that those two have developed is precious. When we come into the room, I just sit back and let them talk. Seeing their friendship fill a space in Mr. W’s life that only kids can fill is wonderful. That tops my list of good memories.
In other volunteer work I have done, I’m proud of a transportation service I set up for my church. From 1988 to 2008 I drove a church bus to provide transportation for home-bound seniors on Sunday mornings. During that time, I got to know them very well, and learned that often what they needed was just someone to talk to, and maybe just change the front porch lightbulb.
Have you learned any lessons from your clients? Is there anything that you’ve taken away from that relationship?
I’ve made friendships with them. I like to listen to their stories and give them a chance to talk. They have a lot of wisdom and life experiences that I enjoy hearing about.
Can you give me an example of a time you knew you had a positive impact on your client, a time when his or her life was clearly better because of yours because of you?
Mr. W. has a daughter living in a group home he has not seen for quite a while. We are making plans to visit her soon. Being able to make the arrangements and provide transportation for him is a privilege for me.
It was the same with the church bus service for the older ladies. I was glad to be a link for them to the outside world. Getting them to church and letting them spend time with their friends was really rewarding and humbling.
If anyone is considering volunteering with us, what would you tell them?
I suggest learning a little about what they think volunteer work is like. You have to be prepared for what you will see and hear. You will see a spectrum of people. You might see folks doing well and others who are struggling. There could be a lot of disturbing things. But it is so rewarding for them to trust you and know that somebody is looking out for them.
If you can, get that level of trust established. Then find out what your client needs. What resources are out there for them? Are there family members that they need to keep in touch with?
You’ll see the good and the bad, so don’t be surprised. Yet, overall, there is the potential for a sweet relationship. And let’s face it, some of these folks will not be around forever. When I drove for the church, I was in their family home; I was in their nursing home; and I was in their funeral home. So be prepared that you can lose this friend one day. Make the last years of their life as good of an experience as possible.
The Senior Source Money Management Service
Money Management volunteers help clients with financial services like benefits coaching, debt management, frauds and scams prevention, and bill pay support. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a volunteer please visit our website: https://theseniorsource.org/ways-to-give-to-the-senior-source/volunteer/opportunities-all-ages/money-management/