Victorian Village resident: volunteering ‘keeps me young’

Pat Reynders
Pat Reynders

HOMER GLEN, Ill. (April 2015) — A lion roars in the distance, while birds squawk and monkeys chatter from the trees. For some, that might sound like an exciting adventure — or at least a field trip.

For Pat Reynders, 77, it sounds like a typical Tuesday.

Each week, Reynders travels from her home at Victorian Village to Brookfield Zoo, where she serves as a docent (a volunteer educator).

Reynders became a docent when she retired from her position at the Orland Park school district, and she will receive her 15-year pin this year. She talks to visitors, explaining information about the animals and exhibits at the zoo.

“It’s a whole lot of fun — I’ve met some amazing people and some really fun kids,” she said. “I love every exhibit; I’ve seen a lot of new things come in, and some old things go out.”

To be a docent requires training for three months and spending three months after that with a mentor. It attracts all kinds of people – former teachers are common, but her training class also included a retired rabbi, superintendent and nurses.

“The volunteer corps is very diverse and very fun,” she said.

Next week (April 12-18) is National Volunteer Week, and Reynders knows firsthand the value of volunteers — both for the volunteers themselves and their causes.

“They tell us that the volunteer corps does a million dollars worth of work every year,” she said. And there are benefits for her as well: “Every day I go, I learn something new, even after all these years,” she said. “It helps keep me young. Being around young people keeps you young.”

And whether she’s volunteering or not, Reynders always keeps busy.

“I keep on the go a lot – I’m in and out all the time,” she said. “It’s used to be, years ago, that when you were 77, you were sitting in a rocking chair, waiting to die. It’s not like that anymore. There are so many people here (at Victorian Village) who are over 90 and still active — I play pool with some of them, and we also have a Wii bowling league.”

And between games with friends, visiting family, and catching up on her crosswords or Sudoku, the rest of Reynders’ week fills up fast — even if it doesn’t sound quite as exotic as her Tuesday.

Interested in donating your time to make life better for someone else? That’s what volunteering is all about. Providence offers volunteer opportunities as well. Visit our “Make a difference” page to let us know you’re interested!

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