Volunteering, staying busy ‘our driving force,’ Donleys say|[04/27/08]

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 27, 2008

Jim and Judy Donley have always made helping people a priority. Now that they are both retired, they actually spend more time volunteering than most people spend working.

“I didn’t think we’d be so busy,” Jim Donley said of retirement.

Upon moving here two years ago, the Donleys hit the pavement, looking for ways to help. So far, they have lent their helping hands to be host and hostess during Vicksburg’s Pilgrimage, taken on regular volunteer jobs with the River Region Medical Center Auxiliary and involved themselves in many of the projects of the Vicksburg Senior Center.

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“Once people find out we’re willing to volunteer, it’s like we’re on this magic list,” Jim Donley said.

But stepping in and helping out comes natural. And, it’s what earned them the March Seniors of the Month title from the Vicksburg Senior Center, where they spend a good bit of their time.

View Seniority SectionThe Donleys, who both turn 65 this year, spent their lives working and believe now is the time to not only take care of others, but also themselves.

Jim Donley has had two open heart surgeries and has diabetes, but he doesn’t let it slow his momentum.

“I’m religious with exercise. It makes a big difference,” he said.

Water aerobics is something the two do together between volunteer gigs.

“We get chlorinated,” Judy Donley said.

A swimming pool is about the only water they care about seeing for a while. In fact, they moved to Vicksburg in 2006 to “get away from the water” after Hurricane Katrina hit Ocean Springs, where they were living at the time, and destroyed all the houses around them.

“I was scared to death,” Judy Donley said.

They had already evacuated during Hurricanes Dennis and Ivan, which is how they stumbled upon Vicksburg.

“We turned on I-20 and came to Vicksburg,” Jim Donley said.

When they thought of relocating, the River City took a front seat. And, since they moved here, they have been happier with the slower pace of life.

“People greet you. It’s a friendly place,” Jim Donley said.

It didn’t take long before they immersed themselves in the spirit of volunteering.

“There’s always something that needs to be done,” Judy Donley said.

And, by doing work for others, they have been able to meet more people.

“I’ve made more friends in Vicksburg in two years than I made anywhere else,” he said.

Each week, the two follow a rigorous schedule. Whether for church, the Senior Center or the hospital, they have work to do. Almost every Friday — all day — is spent at River Region, where Jim works at the cardiology and diagnostics station and Judy mans the gift shop.

But they do, somehow, find time to participate in bingo games and canasta tournaments at the Senior Center. And, when time can be spared, Jim will concentrate on his cross-stitching, which he has decorating nearly every wall of their house.

Judy has also found time to delve into painting, a hobby she began after taking classes at the Senior Center.

“I had never tried that before,” she said.

Even though they don’t have much time for travel or other retirement-geared activities, they are happy with their volunteer-laden schedules.

“We’re just that kind of people. We were busy before, and we’re busy now,” Judy Donley said. “We have a friend who’s in her 80s and she told us, ‘Enjoy life now. Get out and do what you want to do. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring.’ That’s our driving force.”