The opportunity to discover a new passion in life is just one gift of a successful retirement. For some lucky individuals, that new purpose may have been known long before that big day. But for many others like Kathy and Don Lemly, it took some real soul searching. They’ve been retired for 12 years now, but it took them an entire year to really figure out what they wanted to do with all this new free time. Eventually, they realized that they wanted to discover what was outside of Southern California and to give back to others in a way that was meaningful to them.
Giving back to others was a value Kathy and Don felt would be a big part of their retirement. They realized they had a heart for philanthropy early in their lives and in that year of soul searching they realized that feeding those in need was one of them. So they began volunteering with an organization called Age Well Senior Services which includes the Meals on Wheels program that serves parts of Orange County. What started as a couple times a month turned into almost a full-time commitment. This includes filling in for other volunteers and being on the road for over 30 miles per week.
After gaining volunteer experience and meeting a variety of wonderful people, they found their way to Welcome INN, a nonprofit group based in Orange County. Welcome INN has helped feed hundreds of people for more than 30 years. They aim to serve the homeless and the working poor with a fresh meal every day, 365 days a year. Welcome INN is made up of numerous volunteers, which consists of 40 teams and over 500 individuals who share a passion for giving back to the community. Kathy and Don felt that their values were aligned with Welcome INN’s mission and have become a vital part of the organization. Kathy now serves on the board of directors, they both help to coordinate all the teams and any volunteers, and they volunteer every fourth Thursday of the month to help prepare and serve meals. Don also serves as the president of Welcome INN. Kathy gives back to their Church community, which is St. Andrews By-the-Sea United Methodist Church, by serving as a volunteer in their office. You’ll catch Don singing as part of the Church choir on Sunday mornings and also lending his voice to the Laguna Beach Chorale.
In retirement, many people desire leaving their familiar surroundings and experiencing the world first hand. Many dream of visiting the old ruins of Greece, discover what an authentic home cooked meal tastes like in Italy, or retrace their ancestral heritage in Ireland. Others have found it difficult to even begin imagining where they could go when the whole world is a possibility. Kathy and Don have found some of their inspiration for traveling in the form of road trips across this great country.
The week before Labor Day in 2011, Kathy and Don were invited to a wedding in Detroit, Michigan and another one shortly after in Portland, Oregon. Typically, they would have taken the more convenient route of flying to the venues, but they struck on some inspiration. Months before the wedding date, they began preparing for a cross country journey. They mapped out an expedition to visit monuments and state parks that they always dreamed of visiting along their way to and from the ceremonies. By thinking outside of the box, they had a chance to discover some places they may have never seen otherwise.
Many say that traveling is too unrealistic for them, and others have no idea where to even begin. Kathy and Don were in the same boat once before, but with a little planning, they made it all a reality. One of the biggest tips they want to convey to others is to use your head with the timing. Travel when others are working or when school is in session. They also advise others to really find out what they’re passionate about, so when an opportunity may present itself, you grasp it. Another recommendation is to stay social and find connections with others. Be sure to find friends who have the time, resources, and shared interests that you can travel and volunteer with. Finally, staying active and living a healthy lifestyle is important because traveling can sometimes be overwhelming and exhausting. This also includes staying mentally active by continual learning.
Life has become one big adventure for Kathy and Don Lemly and they truly believe that retirement is one the best times of their lives. They’re givers, explorers, and students, with so much more to come. Some may still believe that their dreams will remain just that, a dream. Although, with thoughtful planning, a determined mind, and an open heart, you should challenge yourself to make your dreams a reality.
Evan Lavoie is a registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., a broker-dealer (Member SIPC) and registered investment advisor. Continuum Consulting Group is not an affiliate of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. CRN-2790421-102319