By Tayler Brown, Marilyn Hawkes & Leisah Woldoff
Every year, thousands of people retire from the work force. But post-retirement life doesn’t have to mean idle hands and boring days. Many people are finding new purpose through community service and gilding their Golden Years with volunteering. Here are four profiles of Arizona folks who are doing just that.
Empowering cancer patients
By Marilyn Hawkes
In 2001, Jennifer Zuniga was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer, a rare form of cancer that is difficult to detect and receives little attention. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs succumbed to the disease in 2011, bringing it briefly to the forefront.
Zuniga, who lives in Tucson, has made it her mission to educate and empower others who have rare tumors. “I’ve attempted to take the lessons I’ve learned based on my early diagnosis, the medical treatment I’ve received and some of the decisions that I’ve made and impart it to others,” she says.
As part of her mission, Zuniga has staged several educational events through volunteer work with the Arizona Carcinoid & Neuroendocrine Foundation (AzCNF).
In August, she helped organize a symposium on patient self-advocacy in conjunction with Banner MD Anderson that included medical professionals as well as patients.
The events are designed to provide advice to patients on how best to describe their symptoms to medical professionals and find the right health care providers to seek proper treatment.
Neuroendocrine tumors are hormone-producing tumors that can grow in the gastrointestinal tract, lungs, appendix and other locations in the body, causing a full range of effects from gastrointestinal upset and flushing to respiratory distress and heart problems, according to AzCNF. Because the symptoms mimic a host of other conditions, neuroendocrine cancer is often misdiagnosed.
Information can sometimes be hard to find for those diagnosed with rare cancers, as opposed to more commonly diagnosed cancers such as breast cancer, Zuniga says. “My goal is trying to engage people who have less opportunity for conversation about whatever disease they have.”
While preparing for an event, Zuniga sometimes spends 30 or more volunteer hours a week registering participants, devising questions for panelists and setting up the venue. She also holds a full-time job as associate director of University of Arizona’s AHEC (Area Health Education Centers) program and serves as an AzCNF board member.
Zuniga also serves as a mentor and friend to other patients who have been diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer, answering questions and providing comfort and support during difficult times. She helps patients navigate the medical maze of cancer, but the overarching message she wants to drive home is: “You’ve got to be your own best advocate.”
Like most volunteers, Zuniga finds joy in helping others. “You get so much more than what you ever give,” she says.
When working with neuroendocrine cancer patients, Zuniga tries to remember how she felt when she was first diagnosed. “Admittedly, no one’s journey is exactly the same, but I hope that I’ve been able to give them both hope and insight into best practices and finding the right provider and the right team,” she says. “Even if I help one person and make their path a little easier. That’s all I think about.”
Stu Turgel: A voice for community service
By Leisah Woldoff
After his retirement from a 42-year career in the nonprofit sector, Stu Turgel wasn’t sure what he should do next. “From the time I retired, I wanted to be very careful and deliberate about figuring out what I wanted to do to fill my time,” he says. “I allowed myself to be very selective to do the things that I wanted to do and that I thought would contribute something to the community.”
His first step after retiring as president and CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix in 2013 was to take on a multiyear consulting contract with Dental Lifeline Network, a Denver-based nonprofit.
He next pursued his first post-retirement volunteer opportunity, with the Talking Book Library, a nonprofit that provides publications in alternate formats to people with visual or physical challenges. He recorded books for the organization years ago in Colorado, but this time around he chose to volunteer as an outreach coordinator, representing the nonprofit at health fairs and other events.
As Turgel was considering additional options, a discussion with a friend led him to thinking about his initial career plan – broadcast journalism. “From the time I was a little kid, I was fascinated with radio,”
He majored in broadcast journalism in college, and while serving in the Army during the Vietnam War, he trained at the Department of Defense Information School and graduated from the military broadcast journalism program. “The last time I was on air was in 1969 when I was with the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service,” Turgel says. “I originally thought that was the direction my career was going to go.”
His friend told him about Radio Phoenix, an Internet-based community radio station, and Turgel went through the station’s training program. “The technology has changed since 1969 when we used to edit programs on magnetic tape,” he notes.
He developed “The Phoenix File,” a weekly news magazine broadcast that features conversations about people, programs and issues that make a positive impact on the quality of life in the Greater Phoenix area. Most of his guests represent nonprofits. “My passion is to enable organizations to better tell their story,” he says.
Turgel records the show from 6:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and says it is the most time-intensive of all his volunteer commitments, taking three to four hours each week, which includes selecting his guests, conducting research and writing his script. The public can listen at radiophoenix.org.
He also serves as vice chairman on the board of the Arizona Community Media Foundation, the nonprofit that owns and operates Radio Phoenix; is a board member of DUET, a nonprofit that offers services for older adults, and assists with board governance, marketing and communications; and is a mentor for SCORE, a network of volunteer, expert business mentors.
Since “The Phoenix File” debuted in October 2016, Turgel has recorded more than 50 shows, which are available online at thephoenixfile.net/podcasts. “It’s been great fun,” he says.
George and Ann Corrigan: IMPACT food bank volunteers
By Marilyn Hawkes
When George and Ann Corrigan moved to the Tucson area from Hawaii in January 2016, they wanted to find a volunteer opportunity at a food bank. The couple, both 79, started a food pantry in Hawaii through their church and ran it for seven years. “We really wanted to continue that sort of (volunteer work),” George says.
They discovered IMPACT of Southern Arizona, a nonprofit organization that provides individuals and families with much needed services, including a food bank, senior program and meals, a community clothing bank, youth programs, ESL (English as a second language) and citizenship classes, and resource referrals.
The Corrigans, who once owned an AlphaGraphics print shop in Chicago, began volunteering in September 2016 at IMPACT’s food bank in Catalina, just northwest of Tucson. They both put in a four-hour shift every Monday.
George serves as a computer volunteer and greets clients when they arrive, asking for identification to make sure they’re eligible to receive a monthly food box. “But they can come in every day if they wish to pick up bread and one other item from the expired table,” he says.
After George gives the green light, Ann, who works as a customer service volunteer, dispenses the food packages. “We’re just so glad to hand them the bags of food,” Ann says. “I get the satisfaction that I’m helping somebody… It makes me feel good.”
Sometimes on Mondays, the food bank receives flowers from a local store, and Ann distributes them to clients. “The smiles on their faces when I hand them a beautiful bouquet of flowers just makes me tingle all over because I’m so happy to see them smile,” she says.
The IMPACT of Southern Arizona food bank serves an average of about 400 different families each month, according to the organization’s website. “All of our programs are set up to help people get back on their feet and be self-sufficient,” says Keith Marcum, IMPACT’s marketing manager.
For the Corrigans, volunteering at the food bank and also with the SaddleBrooke Rotary Club keeps them young, George says. “That’s one of the reasons we’re doing this.”
But the biggest reward for the Corrigans? “When we’re done… there’s a feeling of really accomplishing something,” George says. “We know we’ve made a difference in people’s lives. We just like to give back. It’s a great feeling.”
Jane Howard Turner:
Model foster grandparent
By Tayler Brown
Through a federally funded program, 70-year-old Jane Howard Turner of Phoenix is sharing her wealth of life experience with a younger generation in the class-room across the street from where she lives.
She is part of The Foster Grandparents Program, a national program that gives adults 55 and older the opportunity to interact with elementary school students in their own community. Arizona’s Foster Grandparents Program is directed through Northern Arizona University’s Civic Service Institute.
Turner is one of 132 volunteers in the state who get out of their own backyards and devote time each week to serving as role models and helping Valley elementary school children read, write and do math. The program is always looking for qualified volunteers.
“It challenges you,” Turner says. “You learn from the children.”
Turner has been a part of the Foster Grandparents Program for the last three school years and has worked with the Alhambra Elementary School District’s Catalina Ventura School in her most recent year. She has worked extensively with the first-grade class at the school and helps support children who are struggling to read and write; she also assists as needed in the classroom.
The retired nurse and children’s book author wants to make school and learning a better experience than she had growing up in Missouri.
Turner was born and raised in Missouri but came to Arizona in 2012. As a child, she attended a segregated elementary school and was one of only three black students to attend her local high school. Turner said she had a passion for writing, but no one encouraged it.
In the segregated South of the 1950s, she didn’t have a great experience in school. “In some ways, we were treated like dirt,” Turner says about her school days. “I had friends and learned how to deal with things, but it did take a toll on me because of how it was.”
Her own story motivates her desire to help the students at Catalina Ventura School build on their strengths and passions and get excited about school and learning. Teachers appreciate her, too.
“She is there to support and encourage them with anything they need, and through her they know that everyone is rooting for them,” says Callie Krohn, the first-grade teacher who works with Turner in the Foster Grandparents program. “She is a really positive light.”
The benefits of the program go both ways, Turner says. “Coming to this stage of our lives we [older adults] have a lot that we can offer. Instead of just giving up and being retired and looking forward to the next doctor’s appointment, we have a wealth we can give to students.”
She says her first-graders also inspire her own writing of her self-published book series, The Adventures of Raymond Red Bird.
The Foster Grandparent program began nationally in 1965 and has given older adults the opportunity to stay involved and active in their communities. “Foster Grandparents, like Jane, bridge the gap between older people and younger students,” says program coordinator Hope Clapp.
Last year, the Foster Grandparent program in Arizona hosted volunteers at 76 schools throughout Maricopa County, Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley, Yuma, Somerton, Tucson, Eloy, Kingman, Flagstaff, and Tuba City (Hopi Tribal Lands).