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Volunteering makes a difference

Many retirees comment they are busier in retirement than they were during their working years. That may be true based on the number of volunteers and the hours they put in around the Williamsburg area.

Trish Barner, volunteer program coordinator for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, works with about 1,000 volunteers and 90 percent of them are retired. The volunteers work in numerous positions at the DeWitt Wallace Museum, Wetherburn Tavern, Everard House, the Liberty Lounge, the Visitors' Center and many more locations, depending on their interests.

"The volunteers do everything on the educational side of the foundation. It gives them an opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves," Barner said.

The hours worked for volunteers can save organizations a lot of money. At Sentara Hospital in Williamsburg, 636 volunteers, including 444 adults, worked a total of 42,955 hours in 2016-17. At minimum wage in Virginia, that would equal $311,423 in salaries saved through volunteer work.

"But our volunteers do not replace staff members, they supplement them," said Margaret Cullivan, director of volunteer programs at Sentara.

The volunteers work throughout the hospital, according to Debra Hardin, volunteer coordinator. Some volunteers even work from home making blankets, caps for newborns, chemo caps, bed caddies to hold cellphones and glasses, and lots of other items to make life easier for patients.

Kim Coulter, 55, of Williamsburg, helps Hardin in the volunteer coordinator's office. She contacts applicants and their references, sets up orientation sessions and runs background checks. Coulter is retired from the Central Intelligence Agency. She started volunteering at the hospital after going through some medical issues herself after she retired. "The best part is being able to help out people coming in and guiding them to the right place," she said.

Ben Smykowski, 67, of Williamsburg, also helps out at the hospital for personal reasons. His wife passed away three years ago of ovarian cancer and he wanted to give back to the medical community that she volunteered in. "I believe our purpose is to help each other. Giving back and living my faith makes the world a better place," he said. He works in several departments including the surgical desk, the cardio desk and the concierge desk.

"Ben gives an added bonus by helping other male volunteers who have also lost spouses," Cullivan said.

"Volunteers are very much a part of our Sentara family," she said.

Interested in volunteering?

Williamsburg has many opportunities for volunteering.

United Way of Greater Williamsburg: 757-229-2222. Lines volunteers up for several organizations.

Salvation Army: 757-229-6651

Volunteer Williamsburg: www.VolunteerWilliamsburg.org

Williamsburg Regional Library: 757-259-7770. Visit www.wrl.org to see volunteer positions and download an application.

Sentara Hospital Volunteer Services: 757-984-7194

Colonial Williamsburg: Visit the Human Resources Office, 427 Franklin St., 757-220-7700

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