After many years of volunteering at Oasis Free Clinics, I have chosen to step down as the
Director of the Dental Clinic. That decision made me realize how important volunteerism has
been in defining my retirement.
As our working years come to a close, we give a lot of thought as to what retirement will bring.
We look forward to more time to golf, spend time with grandchildren, read more, get fit, learn to
play pickleball, etc. Ten years ago, when I retired, I envisioned more hunting and fishing. After a
year of spending a lot of time in the outdoors, I realized that I still had time to spare. I started
volunteering more frequently as a regular dental provider at Oasis; shortly thereafter, I became
the clinic’s Dental Director. At first, it was hard to commit to a schedule, but I soon realized it
helped put structure back into my week. I worked with like-minded people, many of whom have
become my friends. My patients’ shared their stories which increased my level of empathy for
those who struggle to make ends meet. Like many volunteers, these encounters made me realize
that I received more than I gave.
I also began to see that the dental need in our area was overwhelming and that it was impossible
for Oasis to serve everyone who asked for help. I came to terms with this by accepting that I
couldn’t solve the problem and could only help one patient at a time. I firmly believe that basic
health and dental care, food and shelter are human rights. It’s a complicated issue that isn’t going
to be resolved anytime soon.
That is where our community’s “safety net” organizations come into play. Oasis is there to help
with medical, dental and mental health needs. Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program (MCHPP)
addresses the challenge of food insecurity. Tedford Housing and the Gathering Place provide
shelter to our neighbors in need. These nonprofits rely heavily on volunteers and have great
websites on information as to how you can help.
At MCHPP, hundreds of volunteers process and prepare food for the soup kitchen, pickup
donated food from our local supermarkets, deliver meals, and glean farmers’ fields of produce to
stock food pantries. Between the Gathering Place and Tedford Housing, there are multiple ways
to help those who have fallen on hard times. If you have a medical or dental background, Oasis
Free Clinics might be a good fit for you. Maybe your previous career or a desire to serve your
community has prepared you for a leadership role to serve on any of these organization’s board
I think it’s important to carefully assess how much time you are willing to give. Many of us have
family commitments that don’t leave much spare time. Maybe you help to provide daycare to
your grandchildren or take care of an elderly parent and that is your way of giving back (and it’s
a really important one).
Before you enter the world of volunteerism, I have some words of advice:
● Don’t overextend yourself. Leave room for hobbies. They are also important.
● You can’t fix everything. It’s not your burden.
● Be prepared to get out of your comfort zone. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as we age.
● Remember that retired volunteers are an awesome workforce that can make a significant
difference. We have learned a lot in our lives and have plenty to offer.
● Volunteerism should not only be fulfilling but also fun. If it isn’t, volunteer elsewhere.
● Your continued financial support is so important to these organizations. While you might
find your personal involvement is much more rewarding than writing a check,
organizations need both your financial support and time. Just like every volunteer job
makes a difference, so does every donation.
As for me, I am inspired by some of my neighbors and a member of our board, who in their 80’s
are still making significant contributions to our community as volunteers. Volunteerism will be
in my future. I just don’t know where or when. When I do figure that out, I hope to see you there!
The Oasis Free Clinics is a nonprofit, no-cost primary care medical practice and dental clinic,
providing exceptional, patient-centered care to uninsured members of our community. For more
information, call (207) 721-9277 or visit OasisFreeClinics.org.