By Janet Souter, Senior Corps-RSVP Member
When Mike Mokate retired from his career as an informational technology provider nearly two years ago, like many people, he wanted to spend more time with his family. But he also felt the need for a sense of purpose, a wish to give structure to his day and especially something we all need-the same social interactions that people get at their jobs.
“Volunteering supplies all of that,” he says.
There was another goal. He wanted to continue using his professional skills in his volunteer activities.
For that last reason, people at HandsOn Suburban Chicago connected him with Little City in Palatine, where he helps implement new systems, works on contracts with vendors and manages several projects. Currently he is coordinating with their senior leadership team and board of directors to review and update their strategic plan. As a result Mike was also recruited to work on HOSC’s Senior Corps-RSVP Advisory Council.
His volunteering doesn’t end there. Mike wears many other hats and finds joy in all of them. On Monday nights he can be seen at St. Mark’s Church in Mount Prospect serving at the church’s PADS site. PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter) is the program in which area churches provide food and shelter for the homeless on a rotating basis. On Monday night when it’s his week to work, he arrives at 5 p.m. to make certain that the heat is turned up and that there are towels, soap and shampoo in the shower rooms. Meanwhile, about ten volunteers are busy preparing dinner for the guests who start arriving at 6:45 p.m.
“This is a wonderful example of the power of lots of people doing little bits to help,” he says. “I believe that there are 75 people who volunteer during the season to ensure our success.”Mike is also a Read to Learn volunteer. This semester, he tutors a woman from South Korea, who is learning violin-making. He helps her with reading and writing English and in return, she is teaching him some of the aspects of crafting violins.
He tutors and mentors a former Read to Learn student who had tested too high for RTL but still needed assistance in his job search. Mike is helping him prepare for the College and Career Prep program next fall, honing his reading and math skills.
So what drives Mike and how does he keep it all straight?
“I like the variety of multiple things,” he says. “It also gives me the chance to work with many different people. It does make keeping track of my commitments a little tricky. I have had a couple of times when I realized that I had committed to two things at the same time and I had to scramble to rearrange plans. And yet, Mike doesn’t feel burned out. As he modestly explains: “After working 70-80 hour weeks, this does not seem like that much.”
And as so many volunteers emphasize, the rewards more than make up for time spent. Mike’s include: Meeting people from different cultures through RTL and especially the guests at PADS who consistently express their gratitude for the support they receive from the program. Mike continues to be inspired by others as well, such as the ninety-year-old man who is part of the clean-up crew at the PADS shelter. Or the RTL students from Russia, Japan and South Korea who struggle to make a success of their lives, while caring for their families and retaining their native cultures.
His advice for those who wish to keep busy at multiple volunteer sites: “Get a good calendar app to keep track of your commitments to both volunteering and family.” He and his wife develop a regular routine of reviewing his commitments for the upcoming days. (“She told me once that it was a lot easier to keep track of me when I went to work for 12 hours a day,” he said).
All in all, it appears that while Mike is being inspired by the generosity and commitment of others, he’s also providing an inspiration to the rest of us.
If you would like to find new or additional volunteer opportunities, use our website: www.handsonsuburbanchicago.org. Our partners offer a world of options for you.
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