FAIRFIELD – “For me, volunteering really adds purpose, joy and motivation to my life. Maybe it can do the same for other seniors.”
Those are the words of Fairfield resident Tom Gordon. Gordon volunteers at Maharishi School in Fairfield, where every Friday he leads classes in the school’s “maker space.”
It’s a place where students work on a variety of projects, from arts and crafts to wood-working to programming robots and even tinkering with circuit boards. The students decide what projects they want to work on, and Gordon’s job is to supervise them, to help them when they’re stuck and ensure they’re safe.
Gordon began volunteering at the school shortly after his retirement in 2016. He has a background in carpentry, which he’s done ever since he was 18, and electronics, which he’s done since the age of 25.
His first career was in nursing, and then he spent the final 16 years before retirement in information technology.
In 2017, Gordon saw a flier for the Retired Senior Volunteer Program of Jefferson County that stated Maharishi School was looking for a woodworking teacher. This was perfect for Gordon, who had been wanting to volunteer for months, and could put his knowledge of carpentry to use.
He contacted Jefferson County’s RSVP director John Miller, who connected him to Maharishi School’s lower school director. After a background check, the school welcomed Gordon with open arms “and the rest is history,” he said.
Maharishi School lower school director Lynn Shirai said Gordon goes above and beyond his role as a volunteer in that he has established himself in the hearts of the children.
“He has created a welcome, enjoyable and challenging environment that is the highlight of the week for most of our students,” Shirai said. “He is also a model volunteer in his tremendous foresight and knowledge in the area he covers; never worrying about which materials to order, the cleanliness of the room, which age-appropriate activities the students will need next, and knowing that Tom is there to provide knowledge and skill where the teachers cannot, is an asset to our team.”
Maharishi School Head of School Richard Beall described Gordon as bringing an abundant generosity of spirit to every interaction and task.
“I especially appreciate his persistence and determination,” Beall said. “No matter what he may encounter in any project, we know he will find solutions and forge ahead to its completion.”
Shirai said Miller has directed several volunteers to come to the school to perform tasks such as teaching sewing and the arts, and working in the school library. Shirai said the school is interested in having another volunteer to work in the school library. Those interested can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gordon said he spends about six to eight hours each week preparing for his maker space classes on Friday, and that he spends about seven hours a week in classroom instruction.
In addition to lending his talents at Maharishi School, Gordon has volunteered with the Fairfield History Series films, as a pen pal at Pence Elementary School in Fairfield, and at the STEM programs offered at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.