November 20, 2020

Volunteer Opportunities, Post-Retirement

By Jim Neumann, MD

A few years before I retired, I was asked to serve on the board of our local nonprofit hospice. My wife had been a patient volunteer for many years and through her activities, I knew the organization. We were beginning the construction phase of a 12-bed, inpatient facility, and I love building things. I became the facilities committee chairman the year I retired and had the time to devote to the project.

The executive director fell ill during the construction process and was out for almost a year. I became the project manager in his absence, although “manager” is somewhat misleading. What I actually became was the referee between the architect and the general contractor. I was the liaison to the board and managed our weekly construction meetings — architect in Ohio and construction in Texas.

Spending two to four hours a day at the site, I learned quite a bit about commercial construction and how it differs from residential construction. (My wife and I have built five homes in our 41 years in Victoria.) I enjoyed the moment when I caught the architect placing electric and A/V plugs behind the built-in furniture. I’m also glad I decided to do a mock-up of one patient room with the electrician before we proceeded to the other rooms.


The adventures continued when the architects didn’t like the window installation, and we had to find a facility to build a custom frame for the 12-foot tall, stained-glass window in the chapel. How siding was installed upside down in the north side of the building remains a mystery, but we did find it. The grounds of the 20-acre property were managed initially by volunteers from the Knights of Columbus. Later, a local designer friend beautifully handled the formal landscaping around the building.

We ran behind in construction and when our state inspection was scheduled, everyone was delighted. Donations poured in from our town and the surrounding communities. Local artists donated artwork that now adorns the walls. Through the generosity of the community we opened our doors with the building paid in full. We provided hospice service to the wife of a local dentist. When Dr. Dornburg passed away, he bequeathed $2 million to the project in memory of his wife. And we now are proud to have the Dornburg Center of Compassion.

During my life, I have also served on local school boards, as president of the county medical society, for 18 years as secretary for our Independent Practice Association and continue to serve on the Board of Managers for our county hospital. All of these volunteer opportunities have been rewarding, but the experience building the hospice facility during retirement moves to the top of my list.

So, when an intriguing volunteer opportunity comes knocking at your door, open it and enjoy the rewards that retirement can bring.