DRACUT — When Georgia Cirillo started her retirement eight years ago, she made a list.
On it were all of the projects she’d have time to do now that her schedule had opened up. But she soon realized her small condo didn’t take much work.
“It took me one month to get through my list and then I said, ‘Okay, so what are you gonna do with the rest of your life?’” she said, laughing.
It didn’t take long to settle on a pastime, and shortly thereafter she was reporting for weekly volunteer shifts at the Dracut Senior Center and the Parker Memorial Library.
Her newfound occupation wasn’t a big leap from her professional life. At the time of her retirement, Cirillo, now 74, was a Red Cross volunteer coordinator for northeastern Massachusetts, a role in which she was responsible for finding volunteers to staff about 20 blood drives per month. She’s always worked in nonprofits, she said, and was also a high school French and German teacher for years.
But her introduction to volunteerism began long before that, with her parents, who volunteered often throughout Cirillo’s childhood. With five children — Cirillo being the second-oldest — they were especially active in the schools, she said.
“They were very involved in scouts, PTA, that kind of thing,” she said. “Even though they both worked full time. And I think they instilled that in me.”
At the senior center, Cirillo teaches a “Bone Builders” exercise class twice a week, which helps seniors strengthen the muscles around their joints so that they’re less susceptible to injuries if they fall. And at the library, her weekly shift is spent scanning the shelves for titles patrons have requested through the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium.
On a recent Friday morning, she snaked through the library armed with a list and a cart. Each request refers to a specific title, but also to a specific copy of that title, she explained, requiring her to search through the inventory and read barcodes to find the right one.
The two roles are certainly different, she said, the senior center job being much more active, while her library tasks are “a lot like shopping.” At the library, her favorite part of being a volunteer is working alongside the librarians, she said.
According to Circulation Librarian Cheryl Salem, the library has about seven volunteers who work there at different times throughout the year. Cirillo is one of two regular volunteers for the circulation desk, she said, noting that having consistent volunteers helps allow the librarians to concentrate on other duties.
“She’s wonderful. She’s like one of us. We’re a big family here, so she’s like one of us,” Salem said. “We take care of her, and we’re always happy to see her.”
Much like her parents made volunteering a regular part of life, Cirillo noted that she’s done the same for her children and grandchild. While her family members all work or study full time, they still make room in their lives to volunteer, she said, whether it’s tutoring after school or attending a local benefit walk.
She stressed that even if it’s only for a couple of hours every now and then, everyone can volunteer their time somehow.
“I just think that everybody can find something that they can do,” Cirillo said. “Everybody has a talent, everybody has a sort of inclination.”