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Retired from work but not from service

(ran NP, SP editions)

After working some 30 years as a secretary, Edwina Curtis needed a change. She retired early, and her volunteer life began the week after she left Honeywell. "Winnie," as she is affectionately known, initially started delivering meals to the elderly and soon after was trained for the Adopt-a-Grandchild Program.

She then started training with Health and Rehabilitative Services under the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. Subsequently, she was introduced to the staff of about 18 nursing homes in the county, where she began visiting patients. HRS also needed a volunteer to make house calls to older people who were unable to get to the office to sign up for benefits.

"I started home visits and thoroughly enjoyed the contacts with some wonderful people," she said.

Born in East Cleveland, Ohio, Curtis attended area schools and met her husband, Kenneth, shortly after graduating from high school. She worked as a secretary for several companies in Cleveland, spending nine years with Dow Chemical. In 1966, Ken, Winnie and their daughter Karen moved to Largo. Shortly afterward, Winnie began a secretarial job with Honeywell, where she worked 27 years.

"Health problems plagued my husband through most of our married life," Curtis said.

"I hired a nurse to care for him while I worked for about three years. After a third heart attack, he was placed in a nursing home where he died in June of 1994."

Her volunteering was put on hold for about eight months because of an accident that required a hip replacement. She said she is now fairly well recovered and eager to get busy again.

To round out her life, she has always enjoyed painting. She plans to attend an art workshop in Ohio this summer, with an added bonus of visiting family there. She sings in the choir at First Christian Church.

"Of course, my granddaughter gets a lot of my love and time.

"I feel that volunteering is a privilege and that we are all on this Earth to help one another. There are so many volunteer opportunities out there for those who want to help that it boggles the mind. I have tried to volunteer where the need is the greatest. This is probably the reason I've recently begun working in the HIV/AIDS Respite Care Program for the Pinellas Opportunity Council, where that is certainly the case," she said.

For information regarding volunteer opportunities, call RSVP at 327-8690, ext. 22.

To volunteer:

Retired Senior Volunteer Program: 327-8690

Volunteer Action Center: 893-1140

_ Betty Hayward is the director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program in Pinellas County. You can write her c/o Seniority, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

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