‘Volunteering: A Work of Heart’ at the Brookline Senior Center


Food distribution area of Brookline Senior Center’s weekly food pantry



By Jane Keller Gordon, Contributing Writer

Brookline – Five days a week, Agnes Rogers, 96, volunteers at the Brookline Senior Center’s lunch program. Volunteer Director Patricia Burns, 72, said, “First Agnes has her coffee, and then she folds napkins, and sets the table for the 20 to 50 people who have lunch here.”

Burns said that when she thanked Rogers for her efforts, Rogers replied, “I am the one who is thankful. This gives me a reason to get up every morning and get dressed. It gives me a good lunch, and I get to visit will all kinds of interesting people.”

For the past two years, Burns has worked part-time at the Brookline Senior Center. She brings tremendous drive and experience to job from her public health career, mostly at Harvard University.

Burns oversees the efforts of 310 volunteers from teens to Rogers at 96.

“Our volunteers put in the hours of 28 full-time employees,” Burns said.

With good reason, the center’s website calls her programs, “Volunteering: A Work of Heart.”

According to Burns, Brookline Senior Center volunteers create and implement new programs, as well as administrate and provide technical advice for existing programs. They answer phones and, at events, take tickets, help seat people, and set up refreshments.

Senior volunteers teach many of the activities for seniors, including Zumba Gold, Tai Chi and Reiki. Burns said that a podiatrist and two acupuncturists, who are all seniors, see seniors at the center for a minimal fee.

There is an active food distribution program that is run by seniors, and provides food for up to 100 people per week, many of whom are seniors. Burns said that Trader Joes and Whole Foods both provide produce, breads and dairy products.

Burns seems especially proud of the SHOP program at the center. Currently 32 high school students do food shopping for 25 seniors, who mostly live in the Coolidge Corner area.

The last time Burns went to Brookline High School to meet with students, one asked how long it takes to shop. Burns said another answered, “It takes about an hour to get the list, shop and bring back the food,” he said. “I always stay at least another hour. These people are really interesting. Their history is what we learn.”

Burns said that although community service is a graduation requirement at Brookline High School, “I can tell that they enjoy this volunteering. These students are so fresh and full of energy.”

The senior volunteers show enthusiasm as well. Burns said that last year’s Volunteer of the Year, Jean Doherty, 75, who she described as a normally quiet person, made a sandwich board to advertise a craft fair at the center for which turnout was low. Doherty put on the board and went to Coolidge Corner. Burns said, “Quite a few people showed up. Jean is the go to person if you need something done.”

For information about volunteering at the Brookline Senior Center, contact Burns at 617-730-2743 or pburns@brooklinema.gov. The center is located at 93 Winchester St. in Brookline.

Photos/Patricia Burns

Agnes Rogers, 96, with her lunch cart serving cart
Agnes Rogers, 96, with her lunch cart serving cart
Jean Doherty, 75, Volunteer of the Year, with her gift cart
Jean Doherty, 75, Volunteer of the Year, with her gift cart