Retiree connects with volunteerism

It’s Thursday afternoon at Autumnwood Care Center in Tiffin and residents are making their way into the lounge area just beyond the main entry. Before long, a man with a guitar enters and takes a spot in front of the fireplace.

The man is Tim Galvin, a regular volunteer at Autumnwood. Having grown up in Toledo and now retired from Libby Glass, Galvin and his wife, Laura, moved to Tiffin more than a year ago to be closer to Laura’s parents, Calvert graduates who raised their family in Toledo and moved back to Tiffin several years ago.

“I made some connections with Pat DeMonte at the United Way and got involved with the Community Task Force and a few other things. Then, Mary Lee (Creeger) invited me over to Aumnwood, so I just went there one day and she showed me around. I was completely impressed with the staff and the folks out there and just started volunteering,” Galvin said.

Having done some performing at various places in Toledo, he decided to offer music to the residents each week. He had “picked up an old guitar” while in college at Notre Dame and has continued to play. On occasion, Galvin performed with his brother Tom and Tom’s wife. Recently, the brothers played a few selections at Bailiwicks in Tiffin.

“I’m not a great musician. I’m not a great singer,” Galvin said. “I try to come up with a few new songs every week.”

He also goes into the Alzheimer’s unit and plays for residents who cannot come out to the lounge. People whose memories have deteriorated often can remember lyrics, melodies and sometimes the occasions when the songs were played or sung.

One woman in particular amazed Galvin.

“One day, we were singing together, and it was a German song. I don’t even know German. I was following her,” Galvin said.

He added the ill and elderly who do not appear to be aware of reality often surprise their caregivers by a response that indicates they do understand something they recently experienced. Card playing is another activity dementia patients can do.

“All those things along the way have been an incredible learning experience,” Galvin said. “Tomorrow, it could be me. And we’re all kind of in it together. It’s not like it’s ‘us’ and ‘them.'”

Before coming to Tiffin, Galvin worked part-time for Catholic Charities, was a trained volunteer with Hospice of Northwest Ohio and took graduate classes at Lourdes College.

In 2007, he won an award and earned a master’s degree in organizational leadership. That same year, he served as the volunteer coordinator for Hospice NWO, later becoming director of volunteers. His post-retirement activities reinforced his belief every individual has something to offer to ease the difficulties of everyday life for someone else.

“It was kind of a whole change of life for me,” Galvin said. “If other people can benefit from our presence, we can do a whole lot of healing.”

Galvin said he now works part-time as a success coach for 10 Tiffin University students. In that role, he tries to help them understand that studying is a job they must do to prepare for a career. They must learn time management, responsibility and accountability, and they must develop habits that will make them successful.

“(It’s their) first time away from home. Mom and Dad aren’t there to tell you what to do,” Galvin said.

As a mentor, he also encourages students to become committed to a cause and to volunteer even when they do not feel like it. He emphasizes charity work is not for personal satisfaction, but to make the community a better place for everyone, “one human being to another.”

Going back to school and his work at TU have kept him in touch with young people who inspire and energize him.

“I learn from everybody,” he said.

Residing near St. Francis Convent, Galvin became friends with a neighbor, George Marsh, who is a St. Francis volunteer. Marsh asked Galvin to serve on the development committee for St. Francis Spirituality Center and to coordinate volunteers for the center’s chicken barbecue Sept. 8. Galvin was on hand to pitch in where needed.

Galvin and his wife have eight children between them and four grandchildren in the Toledo area. Tiffin is close enough for the couple to get back and forth for special events with family members still in Toledo.

Galvin said they love Tiffin.

“I have been totally amazed at the number of really good people on the Community Task Force and Family and Children First,” he said. “I’m doing some volunteer work with Community Hospice Care. They’re great people. I’ve been very fortunate to meet all these people. I’m amazed at the number of good things going on here, and I want people to know about them.”