Palos Hills couple rewarded for becoming a volunteer force
BY GINGER BRASHINGER Correspondent March 6, 2013 2:48PM
Surrounded by gift baskets for an upcoming silent auction the husband and wife team of Joanne and Ron Shear share a laugh while filling out paper work where they volunteer at Together We Cope in Tinley Park, Illinois, Thursday, February 28, 2013. | Joseph
Updated: April 8, 2013 6:09AM
After more than 40 years of working and raising a family, Ron and Joanne Shear, retired and in their mid-60s, would seem to have earned the right to take life easy.
Instead, the Palos Hills couple chose to become volunteers at Together We Cope, a Tinley Park-based nonprofit that offers food, clothing and temporary financial assistance to those in need.
“We started right away at Together We Cope six years ago,” said Ron Shear, who retired in 2007 after a 46-year career as a pharmacist.
Joanne Shear worked outside the home after the couple raised their two children, finishing her career as the manager of Endodontic and Periodontic Associates, Ltd. in Oak Lawn.
The Shears said their volunteer work is something they won’t give up “until we can’t do this anymore or they kick us out.”
Their roles have been many and diverse — filling out required federal and state forms, working in the food pantry, unloading trucks, and representing Together We Cope to other organizations, among many other tasks.
They are willing to do whatever needs doing for the clients and volunteers they now consider family.
For their commitment, the Shears recently were made the recipients of Together We Cope’s Reimer Award, an annual award “for volunteers who demonstrate the care and compassion that is the spirit” of Together We Cope.
The Shears said they are honored to be chosen for the award and said it was a big deal, but their efforts are more about what they can give than what they receive.
“We always said we wanted to give back to the community,” Joanne Shear said.
The Shears’ opportunity came when their daughter, Miki Mills, a special-education teacher who works with autistic children, told them about Together We Cope. Mills was involved with the organization’s Adopt-a-Child Christmas program and Nu2U resale shop at the time.
“It’s really a nice place. You guys should volunteer there,” Mills told her parents.
“Well, we did, and the rest is history,” Joanne Shear said.
The couple regularly spend two days a week at the facility, putting in anywhere from two to eight hours each day.
But that’s not the extent of their involvement.
Ron — or “Mr. Handyman” as he is sometimes called — has taken on some special projects from time to time to help with the facility’s upkeep, and Joanne Shear’s “crafty” ability comes in handy whenever special events call for unique items.
She described one labor-intensive project — making “400 or 500 dressed-up wine bottles” for fundraiser favors with fellow volunteers — as “the best times.”
The couple also attend special fundraisers, for which volunteers are a must for success.
It’s simply not work to them.
Ron Shear credits his grown children’s example with raising the couple’s awareness of the benefits of volunteer work.
Like Mills introducing her parents to Together We Cope, their son, Ron III, a social worker, also led by example. Ron Shear said his son asked for his help at a Special Olympics event in which young Ron was involved and Mills was in attendance with some special-needs students.
Ron Shear said the event was an emotional eye-opener.
“At the end of the day, I drove home crying,” he said. “I drove home prouder of my kids that day than when my son was 15 and knew it all.”
Ron Shear said the results of their volunteer work, especially experiencing “how thankful so many clients are,” make it a worthwhile use of their time.
Joanne Shear agreed.
“How can that not make you feel so good?” she said. “That’s why other people should come and do this. You’re not only helping others, you’re making yourself feel good.”