Spotlight on volunteers: Suzanne Franklin
Suzanne Franklin, appointed to the AARP Virginia Executive Council in August 2021, is on a mission to educate and inspire others while having the true spirit of a servant leader.
Franklin applied for the board position because, as she puts it, “I hope to provide leadership and information to advance AARP’s goals and priorities. According to AARP Virginia, “The Executive Council is a team of volunteer leaders from across the Commonwealth who help achieve the strategic priorities of AARP Virginia under the leadership of our President of State, Joyce Williams, and our Director of State, Jim Dau.
To understand Franklin, you need to understand his background and family history. She was born in Washington, DC, and raised in Hyattsville, Maryland. She attended the University of Maryland in hopes of becoming a veterinarian, but fell in love and married and moved to Amherst, where her husband and father grew up.
A few years after the birth of his daughter, Franklin enjoyed working as a rural replacement letter carrier delivering on multiple routes and was a backup clerk in the post office. Then, after 10 years, she was hired as a regular rural transporter and remained there for another 20 years. Finally, she had the chance to retire at the age of 55.
As a carrier and steward, Franklin worked with other carriers and the Virginia Rural Carrier Letters Association (VARLCA) as a liaison between carriers and administration to bring issues and challenges to the fore. As a facilitator, she liked to solve problems.
Traveling many routes as a rural transporter, she discovered a need and interest in driver safety. So after he retired, Franklin asked if AARP needed trainers to teach AARP driver safety courses. Shortly after her application, she became a certified trainer in 2016 and began teaching in 2017. In 2020, AARP suspended in-person classes due to COVID-19. However, the security class is currently available online.
In driver safety courses, some of the participants are over 80 years old. According to Franklin, “There is a lot about safe driving that participants may have learned in the past, but they can benefit from all the new and relevant information in the class. They enjoy learning about road challenges, applying safety, and saving money on insurance. It’s good to help people save money, and they value the information. Plus, it’s fun. “
Franklin enjoys interacting with participants and finds the sessions to be informative, and participants express a sense of empowerment.
As an AARP volunteer, Franklin served as a community ambassador, a member of the state and federal defense teams, a team leader for the Lynchburg dinner group, and a presenter on the Speakers Bureau. Before the pandemic, she created an AARP dinner group in Lynchburg to encourage a sense of community, share information, ask for recommendations and recruit volunteers. She says she volunteers with AARP to help others, and that gives her a purpose.
In 2017, Franklin was an advocate for the AARP Virginia State Advocacy Team, where she spoke with members of the General Assembly. Due to her knowledge and skill in bringing the AARP program to lawmakers, she was there again in 2018 and 2019, participating with the AARP Federal Defense Team in Virginia – on Capitol Hill. Franklin said, “I have an interest in learning and practicing the tools necessary to share AARP information and recognize AARP work. ”
Franklin is excited about the opportunities to get more involved with AARP. Her volunteer aspirations by joining the Executive Board and continuing her local volunteer work are to better serve the community, become more involved in the community, and offer more programs and physical activities. In addition, she hopes to make progress towards “educating older people about what is available to them and empowering and improving life through exercise, education and advocacy.”
Through AARP, Franklin has been involved in other community work with the YMCA and local parks and recreation centers in several counties, and a member of the planning committee for the Virginia Governor’s Conference on Aging. She was on the planning committee for the Consortium on Aging conference in Lynchburg, of which AARP Virginia was a sponsor. She was one of many volunteers who tried to save The Ellington, a place where residents listened to blues music. Franklin is also a volunteer for WNRN – Public Radio. Before the pandemic hit, she was helping coordinate a YMCA and city-sponsored walking group with the AARP.
“It’s fun to be involved in multiple things and make a difference,” Franklin said. She has been very active in the community and enjoys sports, especially tennis. For her, tennis is a great way to exercise. At 68, she hopes to play until the age of 90. She prefers singles but also plays doubles.
She balances her life in the community with her love of family. Her daughter graduated from Lynchburg University, and now her granddaughter attends Lynchburg University. Franklin currently lives in the same house as his grandfather, a farm in Amherst. Her mother and father have spent a lot of time at home with her and her two brothers over the years. She loves living in Amherst. Inspired by her involvement in community service, Franklin said she was thrilled to be a new member of the Executive Council.