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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

6,400 Hours and Counting: Local Senior Gives New Meaning to Retirement

By | Business

BALLSTON SPA - Retirement for most people involves beaches, golf courses and finally getting around to writing that novel, but for Ballston Spa resident Katharine Winderlin, retirement meant something quite different.


With her career as a library system coordinator at WSWHE BOCES winding down, Winderlin decided that she wanted to spend her retirement in the service of the community.

“It’s an opportunity to help others at a point in your life where you have spare time,” said Winderlin. “And frankly, feeling like you may have helped someone, even just a bit, is so very rewarding.”

In the 10 years since her retirement, Winderlin has logged over 6,400 volunteer hours working with local organizations like Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services (DVRC), Hospice, the Center for Hope and Home Delivered Meals.

At the DVRC alone, Winderlin has volunteered more than 5,073 hours, and she doesn’t appear to be slowing down. In fact, last month Winderlin was recognized as New York State’s Senior Hero in a contest put on by Home Instead Senior Care, a non-medical, in-home care provider for seniors.

The contest asked community members to nominate seniors who have a strong volunteer presence in their community, and out of all the nominations from New York State, Winderlin was selected as the most outstanding.

“We’re so impressed by Katharine and her commitment to the DVRC,” said Marcia Geizer, communications director for Home Instead. “Not only because of the amount of time she gives, and her compassion, but also because this can be very emotional and complicated work.”

Winderlin volunteers on the DVRC’s help hotline, logging more than 40 hours of hotline response each month.

“She is the person who responds when a woman who lives in fear because of abuse calls and says, ‘I can’t take this anymore, but I don’t even know where to start,’” said Maggie Fronk, DVRC executive director. “Katharine’s caring response starts that first step for a family to stop living in fear and transform their life. Most of us would be terrified to encounter such suffering.”

While most people would find it difficult to deal with such raw emotion, Katharine daily seeks it out and offers compassion.

“It’s amazing how much she has done, and how incredibly well she has done it,” said Geizer. “She truly is a pillar of strength for survivors of this kind of violence.”

“I am just one of many who volunteer, so it isn’t my work that is important,” said Winderlin. “Being there when folks are in crisis is important. A voice on the other end of the phone that is willing to listen and not judge, and the continuum of services that are designed and directly available to help men and women in crisis- that’s what’s important.”

Her keen sensitivity with those in crisis transfers over into her other volunteer endeavors. At the Center for Hope, Winderlin contacts individuals who are looking for lost loved ones, and for 15 hours every month, offers her assistance when no one else seems to have any answers.

“In each conversation with them she hears their heartbreak and desperation, yet she continues to call,” said Fronk. “For four-and-a-half years she has continued to pick up the phone and make that call because she knows that that family needs talk to someone who is not afraid and who cares.”

With Hospice, Winderlin spends around eight hours each month visiting the terminally ill at local nursing homes. She helps the ill transition gracefully, accepting and finding peace with death, and then helps their loved ones mourn their loss.

“What’s most impressive is Katharine’s courage to volunteer to help with the really challenging moments in people’s lives and her commitment to continue such demanding and heart-wrenching volunteerism year after year,” said Fronk. “Katharine is truly an exceptional and inspirational woman!”

“Truly, being able to help people even just a little bit is reward enough,” said Winderlin. “If receiving this award causes others to look into volunteer activities they can pursue, that would be the very best outcome.”

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