United Way program
seeks out retirees who wish
to better the community. 

The Give 5 program was created upon one central assumption — that people are good. 

Many people look forward to retirement, not just as a time to rest and step away from their work and career but also as a chance to finally have the time and freedom to give back to their community. Once people see the need, they want to help. Retirees have a wealth of knowledge, skills, and life experience. But where do they find those needs that they are uniquely suited to fill? The United Way of Central Missouri has partnered with Aging Best to create a civic matchmaking program for retirees. 

“We look for those aged 60 or better who are interested in finding a meaningful volunteer opportunity and making our community a better place,” says Hannah Gerard, operations specialist at the United Way. 

The Give 5 program serves to connect retirees with meaningful volunteer opportunities through local nonprofits. Participants visit each of the participating nonprofit agencies, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Dreams to Reality, and Habitat for Humanity, among many others. They also work with a diverse list of other participating agencies.  

“There’s an opportunity for everyone,” Hannah says. 

At each agency, volunteers are given a tour, whenever possible, as well as a basic overview presentation of what they do and testimonials from volunteers and clients. Mary and Tom Werdenhausen participated in the first class of the program.  

“It was a great experience for Tom and me,” Mary says. “We enjoyed seeing so many nonprofits up close and enjoyed hearing from representatives and recipients.” 

“We look for those aged 60 or better who are interested in finding a
meaningful volunteer opportunity and making our community a better place.”

Hannah Gerard

At the end of the program, the coordinators encourage the participants to choose at least one cause to which they’d like to commit 5 hours of service each month. Tom and Mary were so encouraged by their experience that they each went on to volunteer for multiple nonprofits: Tom with Transformational Housing and Mary with the United Way, Dreams to Reality, and the Special Learning Center. 

The Give 5 program was originally created in Springfield by Greg Burris, president of the United Way of the Ozarks, and Cora Scott, director of public information and civic engagement. The two developed the program in hopes of “reintegrating those aged out of the workforce.” 

The Give 5 program has four main goals: 

  1. Connect each retiree with a meaningful volunteer opportunity
    that best fits their passions and talents 
  2. Reduce social isolation in the community 
  3. Increase awareness around the challenges the community faces
    and increase empathy for those with challenges 
  4. Create a fun, memorable experience for retirees that ensures at
    least one “aha” or “wow” moment per day 

“The program focuses on strengthening families in the community,” Hannah says. “Our criteria for strengthening families include helping youth succeed, promoting self-sufficiency, improving health, responding to crises and basic needs, or supporting the agencies.”  

And the people being served by these nonprofit agencies aren’t the only ones who benefit. The U.S. Surgeon General advisory recently identified the largest health risk for retirees as being isolation. With this in mind, the Give 5 program seeks to assist retirees in finding a new role as an integral part of the community in these next stages of life. There are many people who once derived their personal meaning and community purpose from their jobs. Now, with a huge amount of baby boomers exiting the workforce, more people have the time to commit their work ethic, skills, talents, and financial resources to give back to their community.  

The Give 5 program has already completed two classes in Jefferson City, and they are excited to continue connecting more local retirees with opportunities. 

“We have three more classes funded and planned through May of 2024,” says Jody Doppelt, a representative of Aging Best and co-facilitator of the Give 5 program. Beyond that, the future of the program will depend on funding.” 

“Aging Best, out of Columbia, also received a grant from the state to make this program possible,” Hannah adds. 

“There’s been lots of enthusiasm from both the volunteers and the nonprofits,” Hannah says.