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A Volunteer's Story

A Volunteer's Story: "It’s not all business. We have fun!"

Meet Money Manager Sue Dunbar

Though Sue Dunbar of New Salem is retired, she keeps herself busy as a church treasurer, library assistant, and volunteer money manager through LifePath.

Sue DunbarSue Dunbar, a volunteer money manager with LifePath, enjoys working with people and with numbers.“I was the elementary band director at the Amherst Public Schools for 38 years,” says Sue. “I have several irons in the fire, and all I got rid of was one when I retired, which was the teaching. I still do a few private lessons here and there.”

Just a couple weeks before she retired, Sue happened upon some information  about the Money Management Program at LifePath. “The church receives a lot of mail from LifePath,” says Sue. “A sheet said, ‘We’re looking for money managers, would you post this and let someone in your congregation know?’”

Through the Money Management Program at LifePath, volunteers are trained to assist elders and people with disabilities who have difficulty writing checks or managing their basic living expenses for many reasons, including vision difficulties, memory difficulties, and physical disabilities. Types of assistance can include:

  • Writing checks
  • Balancing a checkbook
  • Sorting bills
  • Developing a budget
  • Monitoring income and expenses
  • Developing a repayment plan

When she saw the information from LifePath, Sue thought, “Hey, that’s right up my alley, I could do that.” Sue was a bank teller at one point, she says, “so I have no fear of checks, balancing money and all of that, and being the church treasurer, I handle money and write checks anyway. So I sent in a letter saying if you still need someone, please let me know, I’m freshly retired, or I will be in two weeks, and the next day I got a letter back that said, ‘Please come in immediately; we want you.’ And that was almost five years ago.”

Over the years, Sue has built meaningful connections with the people she’s helped. “I love the people that I’m matched up with here,” says Sue. “I really sincerely care about how they progress as they’re getting older, how their children are treating them, and what decisions they’re making with their money.”

For each client, Sue starts off by getting everything organized. “I make a big check register to show exactly how much money they have, where is it going, are there any bank fees.” Sue makes one copy for the client and one for herself, leaving off any identifying information. “Whenever I’m at that person’s house, I’ll fill out that binder and my own, and make sure the checkbook is in good order. It just makes me feel better. It’s like making your bed, just leaving your room and having everything tight and nice, tidy.”

“Every one of them is different,” says Sue about the people she helps. “The end result is keeping that person safe, keeping that person financially stable.”

When she first started with one client, he had two car loans. “Over the course of two years,” says Sue, “we got both car loans paid off by paying more than the principal.”

Money managers can even help protect their clients from financial exploitation. After someone improperly cut a tree on the property of one of Sue’s clients, causing the tree to fall onto the home, the elder and his family weren’t able to arrange fixing the hole in the roof. Sue turned to Money Management Program Director Ceil Moran for help. “She consulted with me and got extra resources for [him] about insurance and about elder abuse.”

As a volunteer, Sue has been able to participate in additional training sessions at LifePath. “I attended the information resource meeting, and that was very helpful. I got to know the heads of a lot of the departments, and so I know that I can always call and find out, if one of my clients has an issue, what to do next.”

Sue enjoys spending time with the folks she works with. “It’s not all business. We have fun! I get a cup of tea or coffee at every house of course, sometimes cookies or whatever. Sometimes I make them little gifts. It’s a nice friendship now, and they look forward to it.”

As a former band director who plays many instruments, Sue has even added her own special addition to her monthly visits. “As soon as I get done with whatever we have to do, I play for them, and they love that. I change it up all the time. They never know what I’m going to bring. As long as it’s not concertos or sonatas, because I can’t do that on every instrument.”

One day, says Sue, as she wrapping up with one of her clients at an apartment complex, the woman said, “Oh, would you just come over to this apartment? My friend wants to ask you a question.”

Sue went over to find ten women waiting for her, each with a special song request for Sue to perform on her flute. “They had planned this, and I had no idea! So I just played them all. It was very funny.”

Sue’s dedication has not gone unnoticed. This past spring, she received a Spotlight Award from the North Quabbin Community Coalition, which cited her willingness to “take on clients with very complex problems ranging from possible foreclosures to someone losing their benefits.”

"As a volunteer, Sue has gone above and beyond to ensure the financial well-being of those people she has served,” says Lynne Feldman, director of community services at LifePath. “We are grateful for the time she and so many other volunteers have given to LifePath."

Contact us to learn more about becoming a volunteer money manager. 

Learn more about the Money Management program.

Find additional volunteer stories and volunteer opportunities.