To Serve, Not To Be Served

Posted on 01/03/23


By Catherine Taylor, AARP Rhode Island State Director

AARP Rhode Island closed out 2022 in the happiest way – with a celebration to congratulate volunteer Shirley Bishop Harris of North Providence as the recipient of AARP Rhode Island’s 2022 Ethel Percy Andrus Award for Community Service. It is the organization’s most prestigious and visible state volunteer award for community service.

Shirley has been a shining star in our corps of volunteers, contributing years of service to AARP as a skillful leader of our Tech Team and a passionate legislative advocate on state and federal issues important to 50-plus Rhode Islanders. We are indebted to Shirley for the work that she does and the cheerful, efficient way that she does it. Our Zoom attendees enjoy Shirley’s genuine attention and her spirited laughter; volunteer team members love working with Shirley, whose enthusiasm is inspiring and infectious.

The Andrus Award is a symbol to the public that we can all work together for the greater good. AARP has long valued the spirit of volunteerism and the important contributions volunteers make to their communities, neighbors, and the programs they serve. Shirley’s service embodies the words of our founder, Ethel Percy Andrus, whose motto was, ‘To serve, not to be served.’

Congratulations, Shirley. Our staff and the entire volunteer team thank you for all you do.

Indeed, AARP could not serve Rhode Islanders anywhere near as well as we do without Shirley and our entire roster of volunteers and volunteer team leaders. They are critical to the work and success of the organization. It is through the efforts of our volunteers that AARP has been able to defend and improve Social Security and Medicare, fight for lower drug prices, press for increasing accessible and affordable housing, fight fraud and encourage the growth of Livable Communities that develop green and complete streets for users of all ages and abilities.

Our rich variety of programming also depends on the talent and enthusiasm of our volunteers, who produce a variety of fun and fulfilling virtual programs including the RI Healthy Cooking Demo, Everybody Dance!, Tai Chi, and the URI Master Gardeners series, as well as timely and topical webinars on Age-Friendly Communities, Housing, Transportation and more.  

Volunteer leaders head up committed teams that work together on Smith Hill and in communities across the state to get things done. Many volunteers will tell you that the most gratifying part of volunteering is knowing they are making a tangible impact in their communities and in the lives of Rhode Islanders 50+, their families and their caregivers.

I invite you to start the year by looking at the work our volunteer teams do and the many volunteer roles and levels of commitment each team offers: 

Fight for People 50-Plus on Smith Hill: In 2023, our committed Advocacy Team will push for state legislation to create affordable, accessible housing, support caregivers, improve long-term care, lower the cost of prescription medicines, set up new retirement savings options and more. Contact Matt Netto at or 401-834-0524.

Produce Virtual Programs: Our tech-savvy Virtual Program Production Team volunteers run the Zoom platform for our exciting online programming, welcome attendees, take attendance and put resources in the chat box. If you have mastered the Zoom platform (or are eager to learn), contact Darlene Reza Rossi at or 401-248-2674.

Deliver Community Presentations: Our Speaker’s Bureau gives AARP presentations to community organizations – both in-person and virtually – on such topics as FraudWatch, Preparing to Care, and The Six Pillars of Brain Health. If you enjoy public speaking, setting up A/V equipment, outreach and scheduling, collecting and reporting data, or greeting people, contact Darlene Reza Rossi at or 401-248-2674.

Represent AARP Rhode Island at Community Events: Our Event Tabling Team travels to health and senior resource fairs and partner agency conferences throughout the state to share AARP’s trusted information and resources to the public. If you enjoy meeting new people, outreach and scheduling, or logistics, contact Darlene Reza Rossi at or 401-248-2674.

Make a Local Impact: Join our Livable Communities Team and work with local governments and community leaders to make Age-Friendly improvements to cities and towns throughout the state. To learn about existing efforts in Bristol, Central Falls, Cranston, Cumberland, East Providence, Lincoln, Newport, North Providence, Pawtucket, Providence, Warwick and Westerly and to join the team, contact Darlene Reza Rossi at or 401-248-2674.

Tell Our Story: Have a background or interest in communications? Our Communications Team writes blog posts, articles and letters-to-the-editor for local newspapers and hyper-local web sites, enhances our social media presence, and more. Contact John Martin at or 401-248-2671.

Keep Our Volunteers Organized: Tech-savvy volunteers work closely with AARP Rhode Island office staff to help our volunteer teams communicate with each other, keep their assignments up-to-date, access resources and fill out expense reports.  If you’re interested in becoming a Volunteer Portal Champion, contact Rochelle Jennings at or 401-248-2663.

We also work closely with Driver Safety and Tax-Aide.

We would love to meet you and tell you more about joining an AARP Rhode Island volunteer team.  Give us a call or learn more at

This story is provided by AARP Rhode Island. Visit the AARP Rhode Island page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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