When Cheryl Jefferson decided to retire nine years ago, she and her husband were determined to stay busy. ”I knew upfront that I was not going to be a couch potato,” says Jefferson, a retired mortgage banker. “I was going to get involved with something and I was so happy that I got connected with AARP. I’ve been full speed ever since.”
She has spoken to community groups and distributed literature at events about the work AARP does for people aged 50 and above. And then, five years ago, she attended an information session about becoming an AARP volunteer advocate. She was intrigued and immediately signed up. She’s glad she did.
“I’m involved in other volunteer organizations but with AARP and their advocacy it’s like I can see results, I can see the impact,” Jefferson says. “We’re being noticed. we’re making a difference.”
Now AARP Florida is looking for more volunteer advocates like Jefferson and has scheduled a series of training sessions starting Aug. 17 for anyone interested.
Jefferson says she had no experience in advocacy and appreciated the training she received. This year, she traveled to Tallahassee three times with other volunteers to attend legislative committee meetings and meet with legislators and their staff.
“This is my passion,” Jefferson says. “I am truly invested and whenever I’m available I’m going to show up.” She was hardly alone. “There were so many other volunteers that showed up,” she recalls. “It was a wonderful, wonderful experience.”
Kathy Dalton of Tallahassee also volunteered at the state Capitol this year and came away impressed. Dalton, a semi-retired government consultant, has experience in public advocacy and was impressed with the approach AARP Florida took.
Some groups, Dalton says, pick a single day during a legislative session and flood the halls of the Legislature to press their points. AARP, however, organized groups of advocates to visit every week, all dressed in the same colorful AARP outfits. The message, Dalton said, was clear: “We’re watching you.”
“I never saw any group doing it like that,’’ says Dalton. “It really provided the message that we’re paying attention to what every single legislator is doing.”
Dalton said the impact from the effort was very clear, with AARP frequently cited as a winner this legislative session. She even testified during a committee hearing against a bill that would have allowed utilities to add new ways of adding profit within the rate structure that had never been included before. While the bill passed that committee, Dalton says, it did not pass the full Legislature, another victory for AARP and older Floridian.
AARP will provide all the support an advocate needs to travel to Tallahassee. If you do not have the inclination or ability to do that, Dalton points out, AARP volunteer advocates are also trained how to push for positive results through phone calls, emails or meetings in local legislative districts.
Jefferson, for example, is meeting with a local member of Congress later this month, something she couldn’t imagine doing before. “Now he calls me by my name, Oh, hi Cheryl,” she says with laugh.
She encourages anyone who is interested in getting involved to sign up for a training session.
“I am just overjoyed to be part of an organization whose sole purpose is to provide a positive impact on the 50-plus community,” she says. “It’s just an awesome opportunity.”
If you would like to make a positive difference in your community, sign up for one of the upcoming training sessions. You will learn the skills you need to advocate on behalf of your neighbors.
SAVE THE DATE: AARP Advocacy Volunteer Trainings
Tampa Bay - Wednesday October 25
North Port - Friday October 27
Orlando - Thursday November 2
Tallahassee - Thursday November 9
To participate, sign in or create a free AARP online profile. AARP membership is not required. Go here to register.
This story is provided by AARP Florida. Visit the AARP Florida page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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