By Anne Marie Gattari
When winter rolls around in Michigan, retirees Jim and Mary Garlough head south. But they are not the snowbirds you might think.
“No Florida for us,” Jim says.
“We would be bored,” says Mary. “And we don’t like to be bored.”
The Garloughs, both retired Grosse Pointe teachers, travel to Perryville, Arkansas, to do odd maintenance jobs (Jim) and gardening (Mary) on the 1,200-acre Heifer Ranch, part of Heifer Project International, dedicated to ending hunger and poverty around the world.
“We spend six weeks in Arkansas maintaining the ranch. It is an incredible experience,” says Mary
The ranch, filled with gardens and animals, is an educational center with simulated impoverished African and Asian villages to give American school children and the public a way to truly understand what it means to be hungry.
“It creates an existence in which nothing - shelter, food, water or cooking fuel - can be taken for granted,” according to the Ranch’s website. www.heifer.org/what-you-can-do/experience-heifer/heifer-ranch/index.html
For Jim and Mary, volunteering is a full-time job. The Heifer Ranch in Arkansas takes up six weeks of the year. The rest of the year is dedicated to local charitable works.
Jim works daily at Habitat for Humanity, running the warehouse, and helping to rehab old homes and build new ones in and around Detroit.
Mary, a former elementary music teacher, works at Crossroads of Michigan, a social service outreach agency that provides emergency assistance, advocacy and counseling to “anyone in need,” says their website. www.crossroadsofmichigan.org
Ten years into retirement, Jim and Mary have found the secret to successful volunteering: Find something that you want to do, not just something that needs to be done.
“It has to be satisfying in terms of what you’re doing,” says Mary. “I feel no obligation in sticking with something if it doesn’t work for me.”
Jim, a former high school history teacher, agrees: “You have to want to get up and go do what you commit to. Habitat is perfect for me. It’s four days a week.”
Mary is quick to correct him. “It’s every day!”
Jim smiles. “I like it that much.”
[Editor’s Note: Anne Marie Gattari is host of “Aging Well in America” on GPWM TV, a member of the Grosse Pointe Woods Senior Commission and owner of BrightStar Care of Grosse Pointe. She can be reached at 586.279.3610.
This article by Anne Marie Gattari, President, BrightStar Care Grosse Pointe, appears in the November-December 2016 issue of S.O.C. Communicator from an interview with the Garloughs]