Volunteers highlight rewards of the job

Four Hinsdale residents share thoughts on why they volunteer, what they get out of it

Peggy Bremner

"Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle." - Benjamin Franklin

In honor of National Volunteer Month, The Hinsdalean reached out to four Hinsdale residents who have spent years, even decades, volunteering to ask them why the work is important and what they enjoy most about it.

Peggy Bremner has spent Monday mornings for the past 4 1/2 years volunteering at the front desk of Wellness House.

"I was looking for local nonprofits that I could get involved with, and Wellness House came up," she said.

The Hinsdale resident donates her time to two other nonprofits, one of which is The Saints, a volunteer usher organization.

"Frequently I go to the Chicago Symphony and usher there," she said. "It's doing good while you are enjoying something cultural."

Volunteering in the warehouse at H2H, a nonprofit that furnishes homes for people who are transitioning out of homelessness, involves loading trucks or painting furniture.

At Wellness House, it's her job to be the face of the organization to those who call or walk in the front door. She said even though individuals utilizing Wellness House are on a challenging cancer journey, they are all surprisingly upbeat.

"I've never encountered anyone that wasn't happy and glad to be here," she said. "People are pretty motivated when they come here. They want to get the most they can out of life."

Bremner said she has the desire to give back to the community - and the time to do so since she retired from AT&T in 2017.

"I call it my happy place, because no matter what's going on in my life, when I come here I'm always feeling gratified and happy to be here and able to interact with people who work here and come in," she said. "It really takes you out of yourself."

Abbey Testin

Abbey Testin was taught the importance of volunteering at a tender age.

"I feel like growing up we always did volunteer projects and service projects through school and through Girl Scouts," she said. "Girl Scouts was definitely big into volunteering and giving back."

A resident of the Spinning Wheel apartments, Testin found her current volunteer gig conveniently located next door at the Hinsdale Humane Society.

"I've always enjoyed volunteering, so I thought this would be a great place to volunteer at," she said.

A dog owner growing up, Testin was assigned to work as a cat socializer.

"I never had cats growing up," she said. "I didn't really know a ton of people that had cats, but once I started here volunteering with cats, I'm very much a cat person now. I fell in love with them. They are so sweet."

Testin said she enjoys watching the cats learn to be more comfortable with people.

"It's so exciting to see them happy and ready to go home," she said.

She encouraged others to volunteer and believes the Hinsdale Humane Society is a great spot due to the many different jobs it needs help with, from bringing home laundry to cleaning kennels.

"It really is not a big commitment," she said. "Especially here, they have so many different ways you can volunteer and so many different times you can volunteer.

She suggested finding little ways to get involved.

"It makes you want to keep coming back," she said.

Dick Munson

Dick Munson has been a volunteer on and off since he was in college, doing everything from working at a soup kitchen on Capitol Hill to serving on boards such as Greenleaf Advisors and the Hinsdale Library Board, to which he was elected in 2021.

He's also a volunteer at HCS Family Services, spending one morning a week loading cars for clients of the food pantry that runs out of the Memorial Building.

"To be honest, part of it is just selfish," he said of his motivation, noting that he enjoys interactions with other volunteers and clients and meeting people in different age groups. "Unless I was volunteering here, I would never get to meet Hinsdale students."

He also recognizes the importance of giving back to the community. He cited the work done by Benjamin Franklin, (of whom he has written a biography that will be published this fall) in starting various civic organizations, including a fire brigade and a library. Franklin believed such civic engagement was democracy in action, Munson said.

Helping others also reminds Munson of the good fortune in his own life.

"A lot of the people coming through looking for food, they hit a rough patch for a little while. We all can and will," he said, and need the help of neighbors and friends to survive.

Munson tries to make the day a little brighter for those who pull up in the circle drive to receive their groceries.

"You develop jokes or something that I think lightens up their day, and I think lightens up mine as well," he said.

Jenny Templeton

Jenny Templeton has a long history with The Community House.

"I started back at The Community House when I was 5 standing in the parking lot getting my polio vaccine," she said. "It's been part of my life forever."

She spent nine years on the nonprofit's board, serving as holiday ball chair, governance chair and on the fundraising and executive committees. For the past three years she has been on the board of King Bruwaert, serving as development chair and on the long-range planning and design committees.

She watched her mom volunteer at places like Planned Parenthood in Chicago, Hinsdale Hospital and The Community House.

The volunteer world has changed since those days, Templeton believes. Years ago, volunteer boards were dominated by men. And the focus of her parents' generation was on giving money. Today's volunteers often are accomplished women who held big jobs before leaving work to raise a family. And their focus is on giving their time.

Templeton brings a perspective newcomers can't.

"They want me because I have knowledge and I have history," she said. "There's a lot of times where that's valuable."

Over the years, she has volunteered at Oak School and served on the Nantucket Light Ship Basket Museum Board and as president of the Robert Crown Women's Board.

Being part of an organization that does great work is the biggest reward for Templeton. And it makes volunteering easy.

"It was easy to fundraise for The Community House because there are so many good things they do," she said.

Author Bio

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean