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Dennis O’Connor – Neighbor of the Week

Dennis O’Connor – Albemarle County

Tell us about your volunteer activities.
In the past year, I’ve had three volunteer jobs. (1) At the Int’l Rescue Committee, I usually work with items donated by the community (mostly clothing and housewares). Specifically, I help run a regularly scheduled giveaway at which refugees can come and take whatever items they need, I process paperwork to track the value of outgoing donations, and I work with the Director of Resource Development on special projects, such as setting up the annual IRC fund-raiser at Metropolitan Hall on the Downtown Mall. (2) With the United Way, I work in the VITA program (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) at the Jefferson School in Charlottesville. We prepare the tax returns of low-income families. I am the greeter, helping people complete the interview form and organize all the information needed to prepare their return. The current tax season started on January 18 and will run until April 15.  (3) With WTJU (a UVa radio station) I catalog classical CDs.

What inspires you to volunteer?
My motivation for volunteering is a mixture of self-interest and a desire to contribute. I get a lot of satisfaction from the work I do and this is a big reason why I continue. I feel that my efforts are making a difference, particularly when I’m working directly with clients (rather than doing paperwork or working at a PC). But even when the work isn’t as interesting, it’s important to me because it helps me feel connected with the community and, as a retiree, it’s a good way to be active and using my skills for the greater good.

If your volunteer work could make one long-lasting change, what would you want it to be?
I’d want my clients, the refugees and tax clients, to feel well-served and to know that they contribute to me by allowing me to be of service. It really is a two-way street—I get at least as much satisfaction from my work as the effort I put in.

What is a little-known fact about you?
I ran in the Boston Marathon in 1971 wearing a pair of borrowed sneakers. Not the best plan in the world!

What brought you to Albemarle County?
My wife brought me to Albemarle County. We had lived in Fairfax for 30 years and she was ready to move to a smaller area with a slower pace of life and much less congestion. We moved here in 2012. As a guy who’d lived in the suburbs all my life, moving to a more rural area was a big adjustment for me.  Give me another decade and I might be fully adjusted!