1. Archive

Her service as a volunteer fills a void

Published Sep. 16, 2005

(ran TP edition)

Like many recent widows, Norma Zeller found a great void in her life after the death of her husband a couple of years ago. With her only daughter in Virginia, Norma suddenly was very alone, with many hours and many days of isolation ahead of her. While she had always enjoyed a variety of hobbies, clearly she had more time on her hands than could possibly be filled with her favorite pastimes, which included reading, walking and playing bridge.

Employed most of her life as an executive secretary, first for the Oldsmobile Corp. in Lansing, Mich., and then for the University of Delaware, Norma knew the value of work and mental challenge. At this time in her life, however, she chose the option of volunteer work rather than paid employment, and says she has not regretted her decision.

Meanwhile, the teachers and students of Ruskin Elementary School have been extremely grateful for her choice.

For the past year, Norma has been an integral part of two classrooms at the school, helping the children with activities and working individually with students who need some extra attention on their reading and/or spelling lessons. Often the work is rewarding, sometimes frustrating, but no matter what, she persists. Because, Norma says, "To see just one child gain in their reading skills is worth all the frustration that comes with helping the less fortunate children to read."

Loss of a spouse is one of the greatest hardships anyone can face. Not only is there sadness, loneliness and a great feeling of emptiness, but also changes in lifestyle and routine. Norma Zeller found getting involved in volunteer work an effective means of coping with these issues. Volunteering at Ruskin Elementary School provides purpose, challenge and activity in her life, she says.

In equal measure, it benefits the children who, because of her involvement, are given the extra attention, stimulation and support they need to succeed in school.

_ Larry Johnson is director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program in Hillsborough County. You can write him c/o Seniority, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

To volunteer:

Retired and Senior Volunteer Program: 272-5031

Volunteer Center of Hillsborough: 274-0909

Citizen Volunteer Services: 272-7232

HRS Volunteer Services: 871-7097