Jerry Walker has been an In-home Senior Companion volunteer for the Senior Citizens Council for about 10 years. He typically visits four people a week and spends 4 or 5 hours at each home helping wherever he can.
Kathleen Ernce, executive director of the Senior Citizens Council, thought of Walker immediately when asked for a recommendation.
“We have an outstanding volunteer in Jerry Walker who was a Foster Grandparent but is now an In-home Senior Companion,” said Ernce. “He is also a minister and has just completed getting his doctor of divinity degree.”
Walker credits his mother, Gertrude Walker, for instilling a spirit of volunteerism in her seven children. She often said, “If we don’t help someone, what good are we?”
“If I sit back in the evening and take a retrospective view at a day and I can’t find that I helped somebody, then I wasted the day,” said Walker. A preacher for 40 years, Walker firmly believes in the Bible teaching that we should love our neighbor as ourself.
“Christianity is losing yourself in the service to others,” stated Walker, “That would bring you to a point where you get a joy out of helping someone.”
“I have some (bedridden) seniors that just want to talk about what’s going on in the world,” said Walker. “The family member who is normally the caregiver needs time to go out and do some things they need to do for the house.”
Walker tries to help his seniors feel like they can still make a contribution.
“A lot of times they think they can’t do something when in reality they can. They have just accepted the idea that they are too old,” said Walker.
He helps them realize that they can do more than they think. Walker, a martial arts expert, recalls his own experience after he had back surgery.
“I remember that after I had back surgery I could still do Tai Chi from a sitting position,” said Walker.
He brings that attitude to the seniors he visits. By showing them that they can still do a little bit of what they used to do, he gives them a feeling of self- worth and accomplishment.
Walker builds up a relationship with the families he serves. He knows how lonely and frightening it is for elderly couples who don’t have a close support group.
“It’s good for them to know that someone outside their family cares about their loved ones,” said Walker.
Never one to shy away from furthering his education, Walker once attended Augusta Tech and became a registered chef because his mother, who was a chef at Augusta National, wanted to open a restaurant.
“But my mom got breast cancer and died before we ever got it open,” lamented Walker.
Walker was able to ramp up his volunteerism after retiring from Proctor and Gamble after 25 years in 2005. Between his work with the Senior Citizens Council and his church, his wife, Mamie Walker, sometimes feels neglected.
“My wife wants to know if I am going to give her a day and I say, ‘Yeah baby, today is your day.’” said Walker.
After a friend once commented that he spent so much time volunteering that he wasn’t making any money, Walker summerized his feelings.
‘‘I make more than you think. You get paid by the love of somebody else. You get that sense of worth from being worth something to somebody else.
‘‘And when you can feel like you are worth something to somebody, then life is worth living.”