Make a Difference for Older North Carolinians, Become a Volunteer Advocate

Posted on 10/31/20 by Michelle Crouch

For a guy who doesn’t like politics, AARP volunteer Fillmore Bowen, 71,  has sure spent a lot of time walking the halls of the capitol in Raleigh.

Bowen has dropped by legislative offices, attended committee meetings and met lawmakers for lunch. They have even asked for his help in getting bills passed. 

As an AARP North Carolina advocacy volunteer, he is passionate about issues important to older adults, such as health care and retirement security. 

“I didn’t want to just sit on the couch in retirement,” said Bowen, of Cary, who formerly worked in marketing and sales at IBM. “The idea of being out and meeting with people and pushing for things that would help people, that was appealing to me.” 

AARP North Carolina is seeking more dedicated volunteers like Bowen to help advocate for older adults, said Lisa Riegel, its advocacy manager. 

It’s important for lawmakers to hear from North Carolinians over age 50 about how policies affect them, she said. Personal stories on issues such as caregiving, health care and saving for retirement can be powerful.  

“Legislators prefer to hear from real people who are there because they believe in something,” Riegel said. 

In recent years, AARP advocacy volunteers have fought excessive utility and homeowner’s insurance rate increases, successfully advocated for more funding for programs that help older adults and their caregivers, and pushed for changes to make voting safer during the pandemic. 

They also persuaded the legislature to set up a commission to study the creation of a state-sponsored program to make it easier for small businesses to offer retirement plans. 

Volunteering goes virtual

More big issues are at stake when lawmakers return in January. 

AARP North Carolina’s priorities include expanding access
to the internet, removing barriers that limit use of telehealth, preventing elder abuse and passing legislation to support family caregivers. 

Volunteers don’t need to have a deep knowledge of politics or particular issues, just a passion to help older adults and a desire to learn, Riegel said.

Until COVID-19 is under control, most opportunities will be online. Volunteers may be asked to call and email legislators, attend virtual committee meetings or public hearings or engage with lawmakers on social media. 

AARP especially needs volunteers in rural areas and those who are familiar with social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook. The time commitment varies, from one or two hours a month to a lot more.

“We want to empower people to realize they have a voice and they can use that voice to make a difference in our society—particularly now with this perfect storm of COVID-19 and concerns about equity,” said Catherine Sevier, 69, of Greensboro, AARP North Carolina’s volunteer state president.

Normally, potential volunteers are invited to Raleigh for an intensive two-day training course. But because of the coronavirus, AARP North Carolina has moved all training to shorter sessions online. 

Interested in volunteering? Email ncaarp@aarp.org or call 866-389-5650. Also find potential volunteer opportunities at aarp .org/nc.

Michelle Crouch is a writer living in Charlotte.

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