Frances O’Kennard & Ernie Kramer, Chicago, IL
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04/19/2012 | 11:54AM

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Frances: “Volunteering is like a snowball. You begin by mulling over what opportunities are around, and then you commit to one. Soon enough, the first opportunity leads to another one, and then another. Once you start, you can’t stop. And you’ll enjoy it!”


Ernie: “If you feel that life is just passing you by, do something! There are so many opportunities to volunteer your time and make a real difference.”


Together, Frances and Ernie have formed a tireless two-person volunteer team. If they are not working on a project together through the Lakeview East AARP Chapter, they are creating and executing their own individual volunteer projects. Thanks to their hard work, many more people in the Chicago area are much better off.


Complete, Nutritious Meals

Ernie’s days are quite busy. He spends Monday through Friday in the basement of a local church volunteering with the ‘Golden Diners’ program. For $1 a day, any senior who is 60 years old or older can visit the center and receive a hot, nutritious meal. It is one way that seniors—who often live alone—can get out of the house and have a good meal with good company, he says. Ernie helps serve meals for 25 to 35 people each day. “At the end of the day, I feel like I’ve done something really satisfying,” he says.


Giving Thanks

Frances has the good fortune of having a daughter-in-law who happens to be a caterer. Last Thanksgiving, Frances organized a family day of volunteering that centered around hunger prevention. The whole family, and a few Lakeview East Chapter members, catered a meal for a local homeless shelter. They prepared the meal, delivered it to the shelter and helped serve its residents. “This was good training for my grandson,” Frances says. “It was a great experience for him to learn how to give back.” The project was so successful that they are planning to repeat the event this Thanksgiving.


Packing Boxes

Last year, on September 11th, Ernie and Frances joined volunteers with other AARP chapters in the Chicago area and got down to the business of feeding hungry families, They separated pallets of food that had been donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository into individual portions and packed them into family-sized boxes that were delivered to churches and pantries across the city. Together, they packed 850 boxes—enough to feed 850 families for a week. “There was such a great need for that donated food,” Ernie says. “We’re looking forward to doing it again this year.”