GreatOpps4

By Tom Blake

Some seniors find themselves desiring a quiet life in their retirement years, while others tend to crave new meaning, intellectual challenges and social hobbies that fulfill an unexpected void left over after their working years. For those such individuals contemplating how to fill the void or eliminate the feeling of restlessness, some may consider going back to work, at least part-time.

Here are a few examples of local seniors who have taken on an encore career and how they embraced their need for a job-fueled active lifestyle.

Debbie Franks, 60, San Juan Capistrano

Debbie said, “I worked at the Ocean Institute for 19 years. I didn’t think there was another job after leaving there. But, I was wrong. I work in San Juan Capistrano at Creative Gift Source. This job gives me the opportunity to learn something new. Working keeps me busy and fulfilled. There are more people out there who would enjoy working if they just took the leap.”

 Chris Anastasio, 83, San Clemente

Chris said, “I volunteer at the San Clemente Villas. I was a former dance host on cruise ships and now dance twice a week with the residents there. At Christmas time, I dress up as Santa Claus and hand out gifts, and I am the Easter Bunny at Easter to take pictures with the residents.

“Not only is volunteering at the Villas good exercise for me and keeps me sharp mentally, it helps me lead a fulfilling life by helping others. It’s one of the things that keeps me active and involved socially.”

Eric Groos, 59, and David Groos, 55, San Clemente 

Eric said, “Our charity, Great Opportunities, was established in 2002 by my brother David and me. We volunteer our time for underprivileged children who live in the District Attorney’s Orange County Gang Injunction areas, which are high density, low-income neighborhoods.

“David and I are San Clemente natives who grew up on T-Street and graduated from San Clemente High School. For decades, we were both seasonal lifeguards for the city of San Clemente and for the State of California. David retired this year. I’m still self-employed as a mobile notary public.

“David and I realized these underprivileged children did not know how to swim. Their neighborhoods are only three to four miles from the beach, and a lot of these children have never been on the Pacific Ocean. The program is free.

“In the summer, we take an average of 40 kids a day to different beaches and expose them to swimming, fishing, surfing, kayaking, whale watching and SUP paddling.

“We accomplish our mission with the help of our LMT (leader mentor teacher) program. These are teenagers that go through our leadership training program.

“Two senior businessmen in San Juan Capistrano help our programs a great deal. Jim Curwood, the founder of Buy My Bikes, helps teach kids about bike repair and maintenance and donates bikes to kids in need.

“Ricardo Beas, the owner of Ricardo’s Place restaurant, has helped us in so many ways I can’t even begin to name them.

“We are making a huge difference in these kids’ lives. Most of the children have very little. Some don’t even have lunch when they travel with us. We provide a safe and positive environment for kids to build confidence and self-pride.

“A part of our program is to discuss with students the effects that gangs, drugs and bad choices can have on their lives.

“Our website is www.greatopps.org. We are on Facebook and Instagram as well. Funding is 100 percent from donations.”

Jeannine and Jerry, Capistrano Beach

“Jerry and I began volunteering as dog handlers at the San Clemente-Dana Point shelter in 2009. Both Jerry and I had a love for dogs and an interest in training them.

“We have both retired and continue to find the work at the shelter to be both mentally and physically as challenging as any work we have done. I have lost several pounds and gained strength working with some of the larger, more challenging dogs. The other dedicated Pet Project Foundation volunteers and staff at the shelter make going to ‘work’ a real pleasure. Nothing is more satisfying than to see a dog that came in with behavior problems become a great companion to a loving new ‘parent.’”

Noreen Hitchcock, Dana Point

“Since I retired in 2012, I went from being extremely busy to doing nothing at all. There were hours in the days to fill and so volunteering seemed to be the right fit. I work in the gift shop four or five days a month.“I was a teacher for 31 years and brought many of my first-grade classes here when it was still called the OC Marine Institute to learn about the ocean and its inhabitants.

“I love meeting and talking to people from all over the country and the world. Sometimes my Spanish has come in handy, too. The staff members are nice and friendly. I would recommend the Ocean Institute for anyone since there are a lot of different jobs where they need volunteers, besides in the gift shop.”

Martin “Martino” Gerschwitz, 65, Dana Point

Anybody living in the tri-cities area who enjoys music probably knows of Martin “Martino” Gerschwitz. He plays keyboard, violin and sings vocals and has appeared at dozens of venues in Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano.

Born in Germany, Martin moved to California in 1986. Martin said, “For the next 30+ years, I toured musically on four continents, in 37 countries, and in 49 states with bands such as Meat Loaf, Vanilla Fudge, Iron Butterfly and Eric Burdon and The Animals.

“I’ve recorded 10 CDs of my own original music, and in 2015, I released my first book, titled, “I Only Look Loud.”

“Music isn’t a job for me; music is my passion. Retire? I won’t stop until I die, or at least until I have the success I somehow can foresee, but even then, I doubt that I’d stop. I usually tell people that I’ll play at my own funeral.”

Bernice Villanueva, Dana Point

Bernice said, “The Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center is a small learning facility located atop the Dana Point Headlands and part of the 60+ acre Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area. More than 20 docents help run the facility, engaging with visitors to learn about the natural, historical, and biological significance of our local area.

“Our docents come from varying backgrounds and specialty interests but all unite in inspiring the public on conservation and the importance of natural open spaces. Most docents are on average 60-65, and use this volunteer experience as a chance to connect with other docents, work in a beautiful area, and keep mentally and physically active. Many are Dana Point residents, and some have volunteered since the opening of the center in 2010.”

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