You’ve retired from your primary career. You’ve found your second half in another field – something like real estate, for example – and you know that work and money aren’t the sum and substance of your life. So now what do you do?
For Harold and Carol Plemons, parents of two boys with two grandchildren, the answer came on two different, yet similar tracks.
First, they became foster parents of two siblings, ages 3 months and 20 months for an 18-month period – working with Foster Care, a program of the Department of Children’s Services (DCS). Even though they’re no longer serving as foster parents, Carol and Harold continue to personally support children in foster care by providing diapers, beds, toys and other items needed by families with foster children. “It’s so hard to be a foster parent,” Carol said. “This is just one small way we can help.”
But assisting foster children isn’t the only way the Plemons volunteer. Their second track was to turn their pre-retirement part-time real estate business into a full-time business. As part of their business they are using their skills and talents to assisting low-income persons and the marginalized members of our society find AFFORDABLE and PERMANENT housing. They work with several agencies to assist in finding affordable properties for their clients to rent or buy. Agencies they work with include Nashville CARES, Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA), the Veterans Administration Supporting Housing Program (HUD-VASH), Magdalene House and Thistle Farms, and Shelter Plus.
For Harold and Carol it’s more than a business. When asked why they volunteer Harold quickly replied, “We felt that we were so fortunate. We just saw a need and decided to help. We are able to use our experience to help low-income people with little education, people who are mentally challenged in some way, or people who are battling addictions. We’re able to purchase homes through the HUD Section 8 program and provide affordable housing for them. These are people who don’t typically pass a background check and many rental agents are unwilling to rent to them,” he said.
In addition to helping these people find a home through their real estate business, the Plemons also personally assist the tenants by donating furniture and supplies to help them get set up in the home, along with food and clothing. This is where the different tracks of foster care and real estate services come together for the Plemons – volunteering personally to provide the items that both groups need to thrive in their new circumstances.
“We have tenants call us every day to thank us for getting them into affordable housing,” Carol said. “One homeless veteran hadn’t slept in a bed for two years until he moved into the house we were able to locate for him. But the best day was when a 5-year-old girl hugged us and thanked us for finding a place for her grandfather to live. That’s a worry and burden that a small child shouldn’t have to bear,” she said.
Harold and Carol offer advice to anyone looking to volunteer. Work with organized charities they say. That way you will be assisting people who have been screened and are working to get back on their feet.
“You don’t need a PhD to volunteer,” Harold says. “Just be willing to help people. The benefits we get are not financial, they’re much deeper.”
“When you get a hug, that’s the biggest payment you can get,” Carol added. “You’re at the highest when you lean down to pick someone else up!”
Doing Good salutes Harold and Carol Plemons as Nashville’s Volunteers of the Month for June. Congratulations!
What is your passion? Is it assisting the homeless, helping children, or working for a health-related charity? Something else? Join the conversation on why you volunteer!