Retirement? That Just Means More Time to Volunteer

For some people, retirement means slowing down, relaxing, maybe even travelling. But for Penngrove, California resident Beverly Mager, who is a youthful 78, retirement means more time to volunteer with the AT&T Pioneers chapter in her community. She has been doing so for over 30 years!

The Sonoma County chapter is small, with just 20 Pioneers. But their impact on the local community – especially seniors and veterans – is broad, as they regularly assist more than a dozen local charities and service groups.

“We make a lot of things,” Mager said. “We do backpacks for local schools, organize food drives and donate to food banks.” Their biggest patrons are the Yountville Veteran’s Home and the Petaluma People Services Center.

The chapter makes many items by hand each year: quilts, stockings, hats for babies, heart pillows, and gift bags. Each year, the group crafts up to 6,000 holiday stockings – a task that takes so long that the effort restarts in January each year. Donations supplement the projects and help to fill up gift baskets and stockings.

Elece Hempel, executive director of Petaluma People Services Center, said the group has been a constant fixture throughout her 19 years leading the non-profit. Every year around November, Hempel gets a call from the Pioneers, asking how many local seniors are receiving delivered meals. Not long afterward, the center gets a delivery of dozens of handmade Christmas stockings – stuffed full of goodies – to hand out to the seniors.

In 2020, after the pandemic cancelled typical holiday celebrations and charity events, the chapter threw their support behind the Service Center’s annual Mother’s Day Tea, a benefit to raise money for its Meals on Wheels program. When Mager heard about the event, organizers were surprised with 120 handmade lap quilts to pass out to the event’s local moms.

Mager, who was recently bestowed a nationwide award for her many years of service with the Pioneers, was characteristically humble about the good deeds. “If there’s a need,” she said, “we try to fill it. That’s what we do.”