(Editors Note: This is part two of a four-part February series in conjunction with “Chatham Loves Seniors,” a month-long celebration designed to value Chatham County’s older adults and to fight back against ageism.)
Volunteerism was never optional for Juliana Walton.
As a young girl growing up in Britain, Walton watched her aunt take on a dazzling array of civic responsibilities. When she became a teenager, an absence of a person on a group or committee simply meant that Walton would be drafted into duty. Discussions to the contrary proved fruitless.
“I was fortunate to be brought up by an old aunt,” Walton recalled. “My mother died, and (my aunt) was the matriarch of the family, very Victorian. She was not rich, but well-off. And she was either the chair, or the secretary of president of everything going in our area. Growing up with her, I had to fill in the gaps. She would send me to do this, and as I became a teenager, she started making me fill in for the absentees of people on the various groups. If somebody couldn’t do it, I was made to do it!”
That spirit of compulsory volunteerism has catapulted Walton into an active tenure with the Chatham County Council on Aging. She’s chosen to make the Council her sole area of community involvement, taking on various tasks such as kitchen duty and serving as chair of the Council’s senior advisory team.
Walton, now 81, arrived from Britain for the first time in 1989. She’s never stayed permanently, instead going back and forth as needed.
“I’ve volunteered all my life,” she said. “When I was living in a different country, I volunteered. I volunteered through my lunch hour. I was volunteering since I was a child. I was brought up that way! It was always said to cover whatever or fill in whatever gaps since I was 10 or 12.”
Indeed, if there’s a need, Walton can usually be counted on to fill the void.
“I think I’m just following a pattern,” Walton said of her volunteerism. “In Britain, I belonged to the local area, the local government. I volunteered for all the (aging) organizations. When I was very young, I volunteered with younger people. As I matured, I joined the (aging) organizations.”
Walton has only one regret regarding her volunteer service — something that would be disputed by COA staff.
“The only think I would have done differently was try to find belonging to something in the community, and then come to the Council on Aging,” Walton said. “By not belonging to the community, I think I’m limited in what I can do for the Council on Aging.”
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