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A Volunteer's Story

A Volunteer’s Story: “Helping other people is what makes being old fun”

Meet volunteer SHINE counselor Charlie DeRose

April 2017 AVS SHINE Charlie DeRose photo webSHINE Counselor Charlie DeRose volunteers to help folks with their questions regarding Medicare and other health insurance needs at the Northampton Senior Center.Charlie DeRose, a retired newspaper publisher, is enjoying his golden years. “Oh, I'm a typical retired 75-year-old grandfather.” In addition to enjoying family time, he has spent the past year volunteering with LifePath as a SHINE counselor at the Northampton Senior Center. “Well, helping other people, of course, is what – next to grandchildren – makes being old fun. When you're young and have to work, you have neither the time nor the emotional energy to be particularly helpful. But at this stage in life, it's wonderful, and you get far more out of it because you meet some wonderful, interesting people.”

What is SHINE?

SHINE, Serving Health Insurance Needs of Everyone, is a program that provides free, confidential and unbiased health insurance counseling for all Medicare beneficiaries.

SHINE counselors work one-on-one with individuals in their own communities providing information, counseling and assistance on Medicare, Medigap, Medicare Advantage Plans, Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage, Public Benefits, One Care Plans, and more.

Becoming a SHINE volunteer

“It’s a lot to absorb, but it's still fun,” says Charlie, who signed up to attend the SHINE Spring Training in 2016 when, after meeting with a SHINE counselor, Charlie and his wife saved several hundred dollars. Seeing firsthand what a difference the program could make, Charlie decided he wanted to train to become a SHINE counselor and help others, too.

“It means you get to understand the complicated world of Medicare and Medicaid, which is personally helpful, but it's more than that,” says Charlie. “None of us are single-issue people, and so, as you try and be helpful, you run into all kinds of things. And that's what make it's interesting. The demands are two-fold: knowledge of the subject and secondly whether you're comfortable with people, whether you can read people, whether you can put them at ease.”

Who do SHINE counselors work with?

Generally, the people Charlie works with are older adults who are preparing for the changes that retirement will bring. “Most people are approaching 65 and having to deal with what that means, which can be a lot of things,” says Charlie, though he has occasionally had visits from younger people with disabilities.

If he ever needs advice, Charlie appreciates being able to turn to those more experienced in the SHINE program. “We have wonderful mentors in Lorraine [York-Edberg] here at LifePath and Michelle [Dihlmann] at the Northampton senior center.”

Charlie values the flexibility of his schedule. “You can vary your commitment, which is nice,” he says, “but for me, at the age of 75, it fits very nicely into my week because I can say to Michelle, the grandkids are [visiting] for a week, so I won't be around. But I'll be back.”

2017 SHINE Spring Training at LifePath

The 2017 Spring Training will take place at LifePath from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a break for lunch, beginning on April 26, 2017. Participants will meet weekdays for 11 sessions. A graduation celebration will take place in June.

If you are interested, want to learn more, or wish to sign up, contact Lorraine York-Edberg, western regional SHINE program director, at 413-773-5555 x2275 or 978-544-2259 x2275 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information about the SHINE program, click here.