Pennsylvania couple retires to serve others

ERIE, Pa. – Dottie and Skip Glover could have done what many couples do when they retire: travel, spend more time with friends or take up a new hobby.
Instead, they enlisted with Mercy Volunteer Corps, a program of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas that invites women and men to serve people who are economically poor or marginalized.
Last summer, the Glovers, now 63, rented their home in suburban Erie and, with the blessing of their four grown children, took off for a year of service in Philadelphia.
“It was wonderful,” said Dottie Glover, a former Catholic elementary school art teacher, describing the past year.
“We loved where we worked,” added Skip Glover, who retired from human resources and accounting work for local manufacturing firms.
During their year of service, Dottie Glover was the activities and recreation coordinator at Calcutta House, a personal care facility for 27 residents living with AIDS. Skip Glover volunteered at Bethesda Project for homeless men and women. The couple lived with other volunteers in a former convent.
Mercy Sister Michele Marie Schroeck, Erie’s regional coordinator for Mercy Volunteer Corps, said younger people are usually attracted to work as Mercy volunteers, and older volunteers are the exception.
“Dottie and Skip served as role models for the less experienced Mercy volunteers,” she said.
The Glovers, who have been married 40 years, heard Sister Michele make a presentation on Mercy volunteers several years ago and tucked away a brochure they had been given. The brochure was resurrected when they planned to retire.
They credit their parents and their association with the Mercy and Benedictine Sisters and Sisters of St. Joseph for their interest in making a difference for others.
It wasn’t easy, though. With a monthly stipend of $200 each for food and personal expenses, the Glovers had to do without pleasures like going out to eat at a nice restaurant or seeing entertainers they enjoy like singer James Taylor and humorist Garrison Keillor who were performing in Philadelphia. Helping ease the discomfort, however, were occasional visits with two of their children and their families who lived in neighboring New Jersey.
And while the Glovers cherished their time in Philadelphia, they admit that their age presented challenges. They had to rent out the house in which they lived for 37 years and live in community, which meant sharing a bathroom and living space with other volunteers.
“That was a big change,” Dottie Glover said.
Skip Glover explained that Mercy Volunteer Corps is committed to service, community, spirituality and simple living. “It’s that simple-living part that was tough,” he said with a smile.
But the experience was well worth it, both said.
“We saw firsthand the problems and issues the poor have to deal with every day,” Skip Glover said.
At the end of his assignment he wrote an article for a Bethesda Project newsletter in which he said the experience “ruined” his life.
“It has ruined my impatience about homelessness. It has ruined my intolerance for the addicted. It has ruined my ignorance about mental illness. I am not the same person today,” he wrote.
Dottie Glover said she became more aware of people who live “on the edge” financially, mentally and emotionally.
“We have more in common with these people than differences,” she said.
Having a chapel as part of their living arrangement in Philadelphia prompted them to convert a small bedroom on the first floor of their home into a room reserved for prayer and spiritual reading.
For now, the Glovers plan to work part time, perform volunteer work and get back with their small faith-sharing group at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Erie. And they’ll talk about their experience with Mercy Volunteer Corps to anyone who wants to listen.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.