Volunteers share their stories about how SWOOP makes a difference
Hilda Rodriguez has a giving spirit. While most of us talk about not having enough time, this busy mother and wife talks about making time to help seniors at SWOOP. She thinks of her own mother and what would happen if there was no one to help her.
“I want to give back to the community and I have learned that many seniors do not have family available to help them. The senior may be in their 70s and 80s and have no way to get to an appointment. They may not be able to drive. The traffic may frighten them or the distance may seem too far. They may get out of breath walking from the car to the office and need someone to help them. They may need someone to carry their purse or the bag of medicine the doctor needs to review. And if they don’t have someone to help them, they probably won’t keep their appointment.
“I get just as much from being with a senior as I give them. They are fun to be around and have wonderful stories to share. One senior shared how she and her husband took on the responsibility of raising a grandchild when their daughter was addicted to drugs. That grandchild became the class valedictorian. The seniors inspire me.
“Many seniors alone and don’t have many opportunities to talk. They light up when you ask them how they are doing. They want to know about my family, and for some I am the only contact they have with others. They need someone to listen and to care.
“The seniors look forward to seeing me, and I am just as excited to see them. Once I pick them up, they seem to have new energy and could talk for hours. Their spirits are lifted and their feel good when it’s time for them to go home. And I feel happy to have helped me in a small way.” It’s not surprising that seniors ask for Hilda by name when they schedule a ride.
Hilda is devoted to her family. She talks with joy about her two children and about spending time with her extended family. Hilda relates to the seniors based on her relationship with her mother, aunts and 86 year old grandmother. She is grateful that she can provide support and encouragement to the seniors in her family, and she treats SWOOP seniors with the same affection, respect and commitment. She just keeps on giving.
Norberto I. Zamarron
Retirement is a time to do all the things you’ve never had time to do—and to do things you only dreamed of doing. Noberto Zamarron lives his life in that manner and he gets a start early every day. You’ll find him at the Elvira Cisneros Senior Community Center at 5:30 a.m. each morning exercising. Two days a week he’ll continue his day as a volunteer driver at SWOOP. During his career, Norberto did not have time to pursue either, and with the freedom of retirement, he’s stayed healthy and gained a new sense of purpose on this schedule.
“I like volunteering as a SWOOP driver because it’s like talking to your mom or dad. The seniors may have no one in their lives who can take them to a medical appointment, and I have the time to do that. I learn from the seniors I help. As we drive, they point out places in the community and talk about how things have changed in San Antonio.
“There’s a woman in her 90s whose son died and she has no other family. I drive her to appointments on a regular basis, and she is a character. She held an important job and had high expectations--and that has not changed. She still has those expectations. She tells it like it is. When we arrive at an appointment and the doctor is running behind, she tells the staff: ‘My appointment was for 10:30, not 10:55. You made it. You need to keep it.’”
Norberto has grown fond of the spirited senior and finds his time with her rewarding. “I feel good about what I do to help, and others should not be afraid of volunteering with SWOOP. I’m not going to sit at home and gain weight. I am around people who care and I like doing what I do.”
Norberto has found retirement a time to challenge himself and do things he never dreamed of doing. He’s active in his church and has found new ways to serve. He felt lead by God to share his personal faith testimony and for the first time in his life spoke publically. Norberto discovered he not only has an important message that encourages others, but he also unexpectedly found he has been gifted with a beautiful singing voice. Norberto sang “Mom” by Garth Brooks at his church on Mother’s Day.
What is next for Norberto? Whatever he decides. He plans to continue as a SWOOP volunteer and serve others through his church. “Life has only gotten better. It opens my heart up.”
Ralph Serrano lives his life with purpose and positivity. These traits characterized his life when he worked in law enforcement, and both continue to color his life since his retirement in 2015. Ralph chose to continue using the expertise he acquired during his career in retirement by volunteering in the community. He uses his skills as a volunteer for the San Antonio Police Department in domestic violence services and as a driver for SWOOP.
“SWOOP offers flexibility that fits my schedule and allows me to give back to an important group of people, the elderly. By driving seniors to their appointments, I not only provide safe transportation, but also a time for them to socialize. The seniors are beautiful people with a good attitude who remind us of our grandmas, grandpas, tias and tios. By volunteering, I say to them someone cares, they can depend on me.
“The concept of SWOOP is simple—getting people to important medical appointments. It provides a vital service, and it operates efficiently. The service is not funded and would not happen without volunteers. I also get to meet kind-hearted, compassionate SWOOP volunteers. The volunteers are joyful and all have stories to share—for instance, Rocky Ramon, a former boxer, fought Sugar Ray Leonard.
“I’d advise anyone who retires to find a purpose and a place. SWOOP provides that for me. And we never know—some day anyone of us may find ourselves in the same situation.”
When Ralph is not volunteering, Ralph spends time with his beautiful family, including his wife of 28 years, his son and daughter-in-law and his first grandchild, Sophia Rose. Ralph also enjoys traveling with his wife with recent trips to Hawaii, Reno and Italy.
United Way SA
Call a Ride for Seniors
San Antonio Area Foundation
South San Antonio Chamber of Commerce
West San Antonio Chamber of Commerce Bexar County
“My mobility isn’t what it used to be, so it’s nice to know I can count on my SWOOP volunteer to get me where I need to go. Not only has he become a friend, he’s a part of my family.”