Goodman Community Center | Volunteer Spotlight: Larry Orr

Volunteer Spotlight: Larry Orr

Get to know Larry Orr, afterschool volunteer and Older Adult community member.

April 26, 2024 |

I volunteer at Goodman Community Center as a Foster Grandparent, helping teach the academic subjects and, perhaps more importantly, promoting positive self-concept and good behavior by acting like a jovial grandpa. Lots of kids don't have that. I have been a foster grandparent for twelve years or so, but this is my first year as such at Goodman. I love helping kids get along with each other and feel that they are important. Miss Maddie, Mr. D.K., Sam and Caiden make it possible day after day, and that's demanding work, which I respect.

Larry Orr Volunteer Spotlight
Larry speaking at the 2024 ATT check presentation for the Older Adult Program.

Now that I stop to think about it, I'm amazed at how big a part of my life comes from Goodman! I started coming to Goodman in 2010 because I read a news article in which the pantry's coordinator said that their goal was to have 30% organic and natural food in the food pantry. That's the way I eat, and since I have a very low income I checked it out and was very impressed. My old flame and I were deeply grateful, so we started volunteering in return. My girlfriend and I baked bread for storefront food co-ops in Iowa: our "Golden Era" organic whole wheat herb bread was a best seller: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

I often get tech help at Goodman, have a pedicure once a month (what luxury!), enjoy the seniors' lunch twice a week (super chef!), go to the seniors' food pantry once a week, take part in the "Let’s Cook Together" live online series sponsored by GCC and UW, and attend many events in the evenings. Gayle and Abby are the Goodman staff who keep it all going for me, along with many volunteers who help in so many ways.

I am from Burlington, Iowa (Aldo Leopold's hometown!) but I came to Madison from Greece. I had been living in Europe, and working/playing as a trail guide on the island of Corfu. I got homesick for snow, so I searched for northern places with snowy winters, universities, excellent local music and cultural scenes, excellent craft beers and restaurants, a relaxed attitude towards psychedelia, and good co-op housing. Madison was high on the list, so I came in the fall of 2009!

In my free time, I walk in nature and bike around town. I read and write, and take part in an exercise program for an hour every day. I enjoy cooking, photography, reading and writing, socializing and dating and listening to music in clubs or via broadcasts. I am also active with Veterans For Peace, and I attend James Reeb Unitarian-Universalist Congregation on Madison's fabled East Side. I travel a lot too: the islands north of Seattle, Germany to see my sons, Corfu to see old friends, Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox in Mexico for joy and beauty, San Francisco and California in general (to make up for being the only hippie in America who hadn't been there with flowers in his hair, back in the golden era of peace and love). Duties in the tiny house village where I live take a lot of time! It's a noble experiment addressing homelessness (perhaps better called houselessness or rooflessness).

I helped to build Interstate 80. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and it paid well. I flew jet trainers while I was in high school and worked military intelligence in the Middle East in the 60's. One of my best buddies was killed, and also 30 of my colleagues. I came back very angry, full of "survivor guilt" and "moral injury" but no PTSD. I got good therapy and I'm feeling better all the time. I get excellent health care from the VA and fight the efforts to privatize it. I have had more close calls than I can count. I am twice divorced, with two wonderful exes and two wonderful sons in their 30's.

I was a "psych associate" in Honolulu for a while. I saw Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, each in the last month of their lives, and blissed out to gamelan music in bamboo groves all night long whenever I could. I tented through a hurricane, unintentionally, and backpacked Europe for a year and a half or so. That's no longer possible for US citizens.

I am often told that I am a very happy person. True, I am that and I like to smile publicly. But I am also deeply worried by how uncivil our US society has become, by the incredible numbers of mass shootings in our country, by the possibility that our political system may self-destruct, and by the looming threat of ecological catastrophe. I think that we are in big trouble now, but that taking care of each other and our community will help a lot. I habitually say "peace and love" instead of goodbye. So for now, peace and love! Share it around, okay?

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