Altruistic volunteer is kept on the sidelines

Published 8:48 am Monday, March 11, 2024

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DEAR ABBY: On paper, I’m an accomplished woman. I have a doctorate in Educational Leadership and had a 36-year career in education, mostly as a school administrator. I am financially stable and I have many friends. I also have an overwhelming sense of loneliness, and this is where my issues lie. 

I was well accepted when I lived in the North, but since moving to Florida, I have had trouble breaking into volunteerism. It took five years before I was accepted for volunteer jobs in my community, and only because of a board member’s intervention. I have been told there are no openings on certain committees until they hear my background from someone. I joined a philanthropy group, which costs me more than $1,000 a year, and as often as they ask for volunteers, I am never accepted. 

Recently, there was a social event sponsored by this group. I was not invited. I learned about it only when someone offered me a ride. When I asked my doctor for the name of someone I could talk to, as the fault must lie within me, he was dismissive. I am sinking further into loneliness and don’t know what to do. Do you have any suggestions? – OFF TRACK IN STUART, FL

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DEAR OFF TRACK: Are you affiliated with a religious institution in your community? If so, it might benefit you to talk with the clergyperson and ask why you may have been excluded from volunteering. In most communities, there’s a crying need for people to donate their time and help. If that conversation doesn’t provide insight regarding the attitude toward new arrivals in town, it may be time to consider relocating to a more welcoming city, one with opportunities for folks who would like to share their time and talents. 

P.S. If there are more Northerners like yourself who have been pushed aside, consider forming a group of your own and socializing with them. You might make some more wonderful friends if you do.


DEAR ABBY: I am a male, 75 years old, happily married for 45 years. We are in good health. We had two kids, a wonderful daughter who has given us two beautiful grandkids, and a son who we unfortunately lost to cancer 20 years ago. 

My problem is, I have bad dreams. Sometimes, they border on nightmares and I don’t understand why. If I have 100 dreams, 99 are bad. Two nights ago, I woke up screaming from one of them. I have no stress, we are financially secure and life is good. 

I have spoken to two professionals about this and there are no answers to my problem. Have you heard of this and have you any advice? – BAD NIGHTS IN NEW JERSEY


DEAR BAD NIGHTS: I have heard of this in connection with PTSD. With the clear understanding that I am not licensed to practice medicine (or psychotherapy) in any state of the U.S., I will share my take on what is happening to you. I have been told that dreams can be a way our unconscious tries to work out problems or trauma, which might include the untimely death of your son. 

I am sorry you didn’t mention what kind of doctors you have consulted about your nightmares. Some sessions with a licensed psychotherapist with expertise in the treatment of PTSD might be helpful in resolving your problem.


Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.


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