June 6, 2013

RSVP – Lead With Experience

By Bill Sedlacek
Retired and Senior Volunteer Program
of Eastern Iowa and Western Illnois

Rich Ricketts: Living a Full, Healthy and Meaningful Life

Most of us seniors (and geriatric medical specialists, too) believe that staying mentally and physically active plays a very large role in insuring a long life and better health as we age. Volunteering for a variety of activities is a good way to “buy” that insurance. Assuming this collective wisdom is correct, Rich Ricketts is going to make it to a very ripe old age and still be working out at the YMCA three times a week and walking three miles every day as he does now. I didn’t know the extent of Rich’s volunteering when we began talking, but as he described what he does, how much time he devotes to it and how involved he is in his hobby, I could only say “Really?” Not that I didn’t believe him, but I was simply amazed by the variety and extent of his activities.

Rich, a Vietnam veteran, father of three and grandfather of 12, retired in 2005 after 21 years at Alcoa. After retiring, he worked part time at VonMaur and spent time with his hobby before beginning to volunteer in earnest. Volunteering was his way of dealing with going from a busy job with a lot of overtime to that unfilled feeling one gets after the thrill of retirement fades. His hobby is also very amazing, but this is supposed to be about his volunteering, so I’ll touch on that later.

Rich runs the food pantry at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church on Telegraph Road in Davenport, putting in about 12 hours a week there. In addition, he is on the St. Luke’s Property Management Committee, helps out at the church camp, Camp Oak, which runs the church rummage sales, and this spring helped to spread 20 tons of mulch on church property. He volunteers for the Scott County office of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS), shredding sensitive documents. He puts in 30 to 40 hours a month doing that. He also takes tickets and directs traffic at the air show. He has helped at charity book sales at the Davenport River Center, has worked during the senior luncheons at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds, does handyman work for seniors as the need arises and at Christmas time goes into the private homes of seniors to help in preparing and serving meals. He donates his blood for platelets and has given 30 gallons so far. The platelet donation gives new meaning to the term “devoting body and mind” to volunteering.

As a personal interest, Rich is a collector with 60,000 items arranged into 62 different categories, all stored and tastefully displayed in his home. Reading this, I would understand if a scene from the television show “Hoarders” enters your thoughts, but I can assure you this is not the case. His collection, which ranges from Beatle music memorabilia (his favorite) to old oil lamps and irons, are all carefully arranged and displayed in ways that maximize their visibility while not conflicting with the livability of his neatly-kept house. It is a truly amazing display. As he says, “The Lord willing, someday I will display it in a museum. They are not for sale or
necessarily valuable. These are my personal items, that I take a great deal of pleasure in owning.”

One may be tempted to wonder if Rich might just be a little overwhelmed by his many activities, but he says “I am the happiest man in the world. I just love staying active.” After spending that hour with him in his house, surrounded by his collectibles, and listening to him talk about the joy he gets from being of service to others, I wholeheartedly believe him. Rich would love to have more folks helping at the food pantry, and DHS can always use more volunteers. If you’re interested in these or any other volunteer opportunities, call RSVP at (309) 793-4425 or email rsvp@wiaaa.org.