Retiree Finds Fulfillment in Volunteering

Retiree Finds Fulfillment in Volunteering


Retiree Gary Sprong loves travelling the country on his motorcycle.

November 16, 2017

Written by Gary Sprong, retiree from A.O. Smith and member of the Retire United Donor Network.

This blog is part of our monthly Retire United series. Check out past posts from Dennis Sell, Veronica Carter, Reid Engstrom, Jim Angresano, and Scott Pavelchik.  

I worked at A.O. Smith for 32 years. I retired early because it made economic sense, but took off only three days before spending almost nine years at the Machine Shop. I went back to work because I needed a paycheck and never really felt fulfilled staying at home…but, then, how many people do.

My first experience with United Way was when my mother died when I was 18. An agency supported by United Way sent us several people to help my Dad run the house. I wish I could remember what agency but it took some time to find the right person because it was a lot of work helping with 8 children. I don’t remember the first one but I wished the second one would have worked out because she made the best fried chicken in the world. Third was a charm, the younger children fell in love with her and even gave her a nickname. They stayed in touch with her and she was invited to all of the weddings that followed.

When I started at A.O. Smith I became a fair-share United Way giver for my 32 years there. After retirement I started volunteering with AARP, which reunited me with United Way. That project was a shared event where we packed survival kits which were passed out around the city to places like the senior centers. Then I signed up for Project Homeless Connect at Marquette University. That was a very rewarding experience - actually spending time with someone that ran into bad luck and was homeless because of circumstances out of their control. Since then I have been working on getting more involved with the Retiree Committee.

I really enjoy volunteering more than I ever did working. I have always done our taxes at home and my wife was becoming wary about my abilities to do taxes so I volunteered with the AARP Tax-Aid program, now I am an IRS certified tax preparer, she doesn’t worry anymore. I have learned a lot about seniors and their finances and have become a lot more understanding of their financial challenges. Of all the things I have done over the last four years I would have to say the most fulfilling is doing a tax return well and having the person across from me smiling because they don’t have to pay, always their biggest fear. I wish that everyone in the Milwaukee area would take the time to volunteer in some way so they would be engaged with the challenges of the lives of others.

As of this writing I have 99,000 miles on my bike since I retired in 2013 and have crisscrossed the country from Maine to California and from Washington to Florida. We live in an amazing country and I feel very privileged to have seen so much of it.

I enjoy exploring books too, the last one was Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. To me, the main lesson to be learned from the book is that for any organization to succeed and grow everyone has to be allowed to contribute to the team. That is probably the best life lesson I have learned in life: everyone has something to contribute to the cause.

I am hopeful that as you read this I have energized you a little to consider getting back in the game and volunteering with Retire United. We all have a talent that would be appreciated by someone and making someone else’s life a little better can be very rewarding.

Are you retired or thinking about retirement? Stay active and involved in your community with Retire United.

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