Why I volunteer — in the words of three metro Atlantans

You’ve probably at least considered volunteering for one of Atlanta’s many charities, but if you need an extra push, draw inspiration from these three metro-area volunteers. Each shares why they spend their time helping others and what keeps them going back.

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Patty Tucker, Atlanta Junior Bridge League

Credit: Courtesy of Patty Tucker/ACBL Atlanta

Credit: Courtesy of Patty Tucker/ACBL Atlanta

Patty Tucker started to play competitive duplicate bridge in 1965 and entered her first mixed pairs tournament the next year. Decades later she encourages more young players in her roles as an instructor, president and creator of training materials for Atlanta Junior Bridge. The organization teaches metro-area children bridge for free.

Tucker, who has attained the Grand Life Master rank, is a professional instructor who teaches “Learn Bridge in a Day” sessions and founded Whirlwind Bridge. As a player, she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she enjoys “the strategy and the excitement of the game and the extended family that I’ve obtained. When I’m teaching, I am intent on sharing my love for the game and giving others the opportunity to form their own extended family and make new friendships.”

It’s particularly gratifying to share the game with a diverse group of young people, Tucker said.

“Youth bridge has no social, religious, physical, gender or economic boundaries. It offers youngsters many opportunities they might not otherwise have available. How many 8-year-olds do you know who have met and shaken hands with Bill Gates?”

Jim Friedewald, event volunteer and tour leader, Booth Western Art Museum

Credit: Tiffany Hughes/Booth Western Art Museum

Credit: Tiffany Hughes/Booth Western Art Museum

Jim Friedewald had no particular interest in Western art when Booth Western Art Museum volunteer coordinator Tiffany Hughes tapped him to help out four years ago.

“Now I know a lot about Western art and it all appeals to me,” the retired Marietta attorney said. “I love it.”

He started volunteering while he was still an active trial lawyer, and had more time to get involved once he started doing more professional mediation. He began at Booth’s sister organization, the Tellus Science Museum, where he worked for 12 years while he was employed full-time.

Friedewald shares his Western art knowledge while volunteering, which includes school tours on weekdays and weekend volunteering twice a month. He said the gig includes a variety of very young and very old visitors.

“I just love coming in here for any of the groups. Recently, I guided a group along a one-and-a-half-hour tour; everyone was using a walker. But they wanted to do it and we did fine; they all completed the whole tour. I can relate to that — I’m an old guy, too.”

During these sessions, a couple of hours “seems like 5 minutes — you get so involved,” Friedewald said. “It really is a rush.” He compares leading tours and telling folks about the museum to the experience of “showing off your grandchildren.”

And he has no plans to slow down.

“I’ll keep volunteering as long as the good Lord keeps me on Mother Earth,” he said.

Credit: Courtesy

Credit: Courtesy

Lisa M. Cox, iWag, Clay Feet, ad hoc projects

Lisa M. Cox has lived in Atlanta’s East Lake neighborhood for 25 years and is proof that short-term volunteering can benefit all involved.

The married mother of Henry, 22, and Patricia, 13, took early retirement from work in her family’s financial firm and had a minor stroke days later. After a year or two of relaxing and healing, she found ways to contribute to her local community.

“It makes me want to volunteer when I see something and I’m like, ‘Oh, that needs to be done and I want to get it done — let me just knock that out. Look at all that trash! Let me pick that up.’”

Cox has held a position on the East Lake YMCA board and is just as drawn to unofficial projects, such as providing masks as part of the food giveaway at local schools, helping draw in people with supplies, and sewing masks.

“We just pulled together people who all wanted to help. We ended up giving away more than 800 masks and all felt good about it,” she said.

She’s also fostered puppies via the metro Atlanta nonprofit dog care facility iWag, though she typically uses her Facebook connections to find a suitable permanent home for them.

“I have a preference for puppies ― hound dogs, beagle mixes. The pandemic turned us on to rescue dogs and we started fostering,” she said. “It’s a good way to volunteer ... Remember, when you foster they will provide you with the food, medical care, beds — all you have to do is provide the loving home.”

Currently, she works with Clay Feet, a nonprofit whose mission is to work with families that have survived or escaped domestic violence — particularly women who are pregnant or have kids younger than two. Cox spends a lot of her volunteer hours trying to work out arrangements to tap into and tweak already-existing free food opportunities and to assure valuable donated items.

A self-described “open book,” Cox said she bonded with the women in the shelter experience over her experience of being a pregnant teen whose oldest child was adopted.

“I’m really quiet in going about my business and take their cue on how much to interact,” she said. “They ask all sorts of questions.”

She encourages other people who are 50-plus to either find a cause that is important to them, or a task they like to do and find an organization that is working on that cause or needs the skill they have.

And she thinks there is a place in the world of volunteers for folks like her who want to give without an extended commitment. She started volunteering as a babysitter for those seeking services at a domestic violence response center when she was a student at Emory and has attached herself to many one-off projects in the years since.

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