Volunteering gives Charan Bird a mission in life, way to give back

Charan Bird stands outside the Southeast Alaska Independent Living offices on Wednesday. Staff photo by Taylor Balkom

It’s happened three times in her life now — where Charan “Birdie” Bird’s volunteering has led to employment. Even though that occurred, getting a job was not her end goal in donating her time.

Bird is now a receptionist and independent living advocate at Southeast Alaska Independent Living — a position she received after volunteering with the organization for a year. Whether it was watering plants or taking out garbage, it didn’t matter to her.

“Volunteering gives me good feelings about myself,” Bird said. “I have dealt with stressors and self esteem issues all my life, and it makes me feel like I have a mission — that it gives me purpose and meaning in life. It just makes me feel good to help others.”

Bird is from Ketchikan but resided more than 40 years in the lower 48, where she also volunteered in Washington state. She began volunteering at SAIL after she retired, because she didn’t want to be stuck at home on the couch watching TV. For her, volunteering gives her life structure.

“I want to appeal to the younger group of people too, not just seniors, but seniors are the ones with the empty nest if the grandkids aren’t around,” she noted.

She also co-facilitates a peer support group at 5:30 p.m. every Monday at SAIL, to help those that have walked a path in life similar to hers. Bird just wants to give back to the community, in whatever capacity she can — which includes her helping at the Volunteer Fair from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Saturday at The Plaza mall.

“I hope the community comes together and finds new meaning for their lives,” she said. “I think they’ll find that their life is enhanced by giving back.”

When guests register at the fair upon arrival, they will also receive a “passport,” where if they visit each booth and get a stamp or sticker, they can enter the drawing to win a door prize. Birdie said they worked hard to gather prizes, which include a weed wacker from Madison Lumber & Hardware Inc., a 15-minute Helicopter Air Alaska ride for three people, and a Roku — an entertainment streaming device — from General Communications Inc.