The Baby Boomer generation has much to contribute. While some prepare for retirement and consider how they might use their life experience to benefit their communities and remain connected, others find themselves embarking on new stages in life and in need of further employment. As young people look outside the Ohio Valley for economic opportunities, the Baby Boomer generation also steps up to fill that gap. Cynthia Pugh, of the Senior Community Service Program at Belmont County Connections, has held the position for the past three years. At 62 years old, she has helped others to pursue employment and career opportunities as she works part-time. She recalled her decision to go back to school and earn an associate degree through the Workforce Investment Act while attending West Virginia Northern. “You’re never too old to go back to school and climb the ladder,” she said, adding that educational opportunities and employment resources are available and she has seen more people in the Baby Boomer age category are taking an interest. She stresses the value of education in forging a future, noting that some applicants are lacking. “Some don’t have a GED. I encourage them to go to the classes they offer,” Pugh said, adding that they will reap rewards. “Since 2010 a lot of them have got jobs and kept jobs.” She added that circumstances have placed many people in dire situations. “Everybody’s looking for work,” she said. “It’s so hard.” Pugh noted one case involving a 61-year old individual who had been sleeping in a car until the available programs were able secure him an apartment and training so he was eventually able to obtain a job of 20 hours per week. In other cases, people in their late 50s are finding themselves downsized and unsure of what to do or what they need. “It’s difficult to look for a job and they don’t want to start digging into their 401k,” she said. Pugh noted that programs such as CSET are able to assist people who meet their income guidelines in such matters as resume advice and information about job offers. She added that in 2010 her office has seen 15 people of that age range employed, with one obtaining a full time job. Pugh added that a part-time job can be sufficient to guard against losing their homes. She said keeping a good attitude is important for fueling determination. “It’s harder for an older person,” she said. “With the computer age now everyone has to look for a job in the resource room.” She added that many have also chosen to donate their time in volunteering. “They’re families have grown and moved away and they want to give back to the community,” Pugh said. She noted that the Retired Senior Volunteering Program works with nine different sites in Belmont County, including Belmont Community Hospital, the historical society, and the Lafferty Volunteer Auxiliary. Pugh added that Living Bread Kitchen has 25 volunteers and St. John’s Cafeteria has 11. Captain Louis Patrick of the Belmont County Salvation Army said that while his office enjoys volunteers from every age, concerned persons from the Baby Boomer generation bring valued work experience and focus along with the energy and productivity to make things happen. “Some have expertise in their areas and that’s helped us out greatly,” he said. “And those we help fall in that age bracket too. The need is great right now.” The boomers are also welcome and active in volunteer organizations such as 4-H. “At 4-H we probably do have a lot of people from that age bracket,” said Steve Shumaker, Ag agent with the Ohio State University Extension Office. He noted that many of their volunteers from the boomer generation are lifelong members who are familiar with the values of the organization and the sense of remaining connected with the community that membership engenders. “A lot of 4-H volunteers are there because of kids or grandkids or family.” He noted that many in that stage of life have a great deal to offer in terms of skills and expertise in their various fields, and they welcome the opportunity to impart their lessons to young people. “People from that age group, they have a lot of life experiences or skills. We do tap into that age group a lot to help,” he said, adding that the assistance they provide to area projects is highly valued. “One thing our program does see is that our master gardener program has grown over the years,” he said, adding that the organization has worked on such projects as the St. Clairsville Community Garden and the fairgrounds on beautification and landscaping projects. “A lot of retired individuals have volunteered to be part of community gardens. That’s grown by leaps and bounds,” he said. In addition, some landowners and lifelong farmers have generously opened their farms for agricultural field days and learning stations through the schools. DeFrank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK
Cynthia Pugh, Senior Community Service Program at Belmont County Connections, observes chart of age breakdowns in Ohio.