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Volunteer Spotlight: Olivia Dabney

Posted on 09/18/19


AARP Community Ambassador Olivia Dabney has been volunteering with AARP for two years but has been serving her Virginia Beach community for almost her entire life. Working as both a teacher and administrator gave Olivia the drive to continue her selfless work in retirement.

Growing up in rural Virginia Beach, Dabney, now 73, was one of eight children. Both of her parents emphasized the importance of education, a value that she carried with her for her entire life. Dabney began teaching within the Virginia Beach public school system in 1968, just as integration was beginning. She taught 6th and 7th graders as one of only two black teachers in her school.

“It was hard until the kids told their parents to give Ms. Dabney a chance,” she remembers. “The kids saw that I had a passion for teaching and being with them.”

Dabney’s lengthy career in education is a reflection of her commitment to service and leadership, as she assumed principal and vice-principal positions in addition to her teaching. Her retirement in 2007 after a 40-year-long career marked only the next step in her journey.

“When I retired, my son told me I was not going to just sit in this house,” Dabney said, which prompted her to begin volunteering at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital. It was not long until she was steered in the direction of her local AARP chapter.

“I was a proud AARP card carrier,” Dabney remembers, “I went to the volunteer orientation, and I was just on fire!”

As a community ambassador, Olivia tables at various events, as well as presents on a variety of educational workshops. She also helps with coordinating events with the AARP Virginia office for her region in Southeast Virginia.

“I’m just so proud to be a part of AARP and what it stands for,” Dabney said, “When I go out, I want people to see the spirit of service in me, and I know that they do because I am always so excited to be out representing.”

Dabney has been very encouraged by her community’s turnout and involvement in events such as Movies for Grownups and weekly lunch groups.

“The group we have is like a family,” Dabney said. “The community is interested in the things we are doing!”

Dabney has extended her help to various other community organizations such as her church, Piney Grove Baptist Church. She has been a strong voice of activism in her community, and Virginia Beach has recognized her wholeheartedly. In 2001, she received proclamation from the mayor and city council of Virginia Beach that designated October 13, 2001 as Olivia Estelle Lawrence Dabney Day.

She is also a past recipient of the Urban League Award for outstanding contributions in the Hampton Roads Area, promoting educational initiatives which support interracial understanding and cooperation.

Are you interested in joining AARP’s Volunteer Team? Complete an online Interest Form, and we’ll be in touch.

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

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