ASK DENISE: Retiree wants to spend spare time volunteering

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Editor’s note: Writer’s answers do not reflect those of the Mitchell News-Journal and are not meant to replace medical or mental health care.


Dear Denise: I am a 64-year-old woman who recently retired. I was not ready to retire but was forced out due to staffing changes. I am financially well off and have no desire to start a new career. I feel I still have a lot to give, however, and would love to find a place to volunteer in the Spruce Pine area. Do you have any ideas on where I can start?

Dear Reader: How wonderful of you to want to give to the community. Many places would love to accept more volunteers.  

SafePlace accepts volunteers to help out in its thrift stores, where all proceeds go toward their operating expenses. Mitchell County Animal Rescue is always looking for volunteers, as is the Meals on Wheels program, which is through the Senior Center. The Senior Center also has a need for volunteers for group activities. 

Our local hospital uses a volunteer program as well. So, as you can see, there are plenty of opportunities for you to be involved and to help others. Thank you for your giving spirit.


Dear Denise: I recently moved here for work. I am from a much larger city, and while I do love the peacefulness here, I feel very lonely. I work from home part of the time and am on the road (but home at night) other times. How can I meet people? A lot of people have told me to use social media and online dating sites, but I am afraid of those. Any suggestions?

Dear Reader: I too am a “transplant,” and it took me a while to feel like this was home. But you are right; this is a beautiful and peaceful area in which to live. There are many ways to meet new people; it just requires some reaching out on your part.

You didn’t mention if you have co-workers, but if so, start asking them to lunch. Get to know people that way. This may be a small town, but it is pretty active with street festivals and such.  Make it a point to attend these and mingle. There are a couple of inviting pubs downtown. A couple of them have venues where one can sit outside and listen to music. Everyone is very open and friendly at these establishments. But don’t rule out online chatting.  

I agree there are potential dangers meeting someone you met online, but let’s be honest, there are dangers meeting anyone for the first time. Not everyone is honest and forthright about who they are or were. So, caution is needed. Don’t disclose any personal information that could be used against you. If you decide to meet, make sure it is in a safe, public place. 

Some people, to protect themselves, have even run a background check on their potential interest. Trust your gut, if something seems “off,” then it probably is. But the internet enables us to reach out to people we otherwise could not.  

I feel if you are patient, and put some effort into making new friends, you will be surprised at how well people respond. 

Best of luck.


Denise Harrison is a Licensed Counselor in Spruce Pine. Send questions to or call and leave a message at 828-467-0037. Submissions are anonymous.

The MItchell News

Mailing Address: PO Box 339 
Spruce Pine, NC 28777 
Phone: 828-765-7169
Fax: 828-765-1616