Volunteering in retirement

Retirement, though pleasant, didn’t suit Diane Adaire.

Fifteen years ago, Adaire and her husband moved to Osage Beach, Mo., a popular tourist spot on the Lake of the Ozarks.

However, “you can only watch the water so long,” Adaire said.

That, and a desire to get back to children, grandchildren and – eventually – great-grandchildren, prompted Adaire’s return to Fort Dodge.

Upon coming back, Adaire worked as an in-store demonstrator, offering free samples at various local stores.

After suffering a heart attack, Adaire was not up to the rigors of an eight-hour work day, she said.

But she had no interest in just sitting home.

Around that time, Adaire heard that Opportunity Village, which serves people with intellectual disabilities, mental illness and other disabilities through northern Iowa, was opening a thrift store in Fort Dodge.

While in Osage Beach, Adaire volunteered with a similar store affiliated with the local Humane Society.

“I thought, ‘This is the opportunity for me’,” she said.

Adaire has been a volunteer with the store, located at 12 N. 25th St., since it opened in October 2011.

Though she works several shifts per week, her hours at the store are flexible, Adaire said.

“If I’m bored at home and not watching the grandkids, I come out here – whether they want me or not,” she said, with a laugh.

“We do,” said Kris Hillmer-Pierson, volunteer coordinator, upon overhearing Adaire’s remarks.

Indeed, volunteers are always welcome at the store, which raises money to support Opportunity Village.

According to Adaire, volunteers work with all aspects of running the store.

Items donated are sorted and priced before they make their way to the floor, she said.

But Adaire’s favorite part of the job is meeting and working with the customers.

“I’m a people person,” she said.

Since opening, the Village General Store has attracted many regular customers, she said.

“A lot of them, I went to high school with and hadn’t seen for years,” she said.

Shoppers range from people who are interested in bargains on everyday items to those who collect various memorabilia.

Adaire herself found a long sought-after treasure from her past recently, she said.

“When I was in first grade in 1949, I learned to read with a ‘Dick and Jane’ reader,” she said. “I always wanted to find a copy to show my grandkids.”

Sure enough, the very same reader – though a bit the worse for wear – turned up in a donation bin, Adaire said.

Other customers have similar stories, she said.

“It’s fun to get to know people, to know them by their first name and learn their stories,” she said.

Adaire encourages anyone with free time to join her at the store.

“I’m 70,” she said. “And just because you’re 70 doesn’t mean you can’t get up and do something.”