Senior couple spends summer volunteering at youth camp

For Robert and Janet Sartain, residents of Baptist Retirement Community, their retirement is a time to give back to the community and to their church. They have two New Year’s resolutions – to continue making a difference and to keep up their record of attending Sunday school every week.

Robert has attended Sunday school every week for the past 64 years, and Janet has held that record for 34 years. Robert started this program at First Baptist Church in Clarendon, Texas, as a young boy. The program recognizes people who have perfect Sunday school attendance every year with a special pin.

Volunteer work is also important to the couple. This past year, the two spent their summer at Aspendale Mountain Retreat Center in New Mexico.

“As long as we are able and healthy we plan to give back in any way we can,” Robert said. “I had first heard of the opportunity of volunteering at Aspendale Mountain Retreat Center from a friend of mine. Janet and I thought it sounded like fun, so we reached out to the camp director and were approved to come spend the summer up there. It’s a Baptist encampment that is owned by the El Paso Association, and kids, families and people of all faiths are welcome to come and stay. They have retreats on the weekends, campouts for youth and host the biggest camp every year for all the churches in the El Paso area. We helped them with anything and everything they needed.”

Robert and Janet started volunteering at the end of April and continued through August. They worked in the dining room, checked fire extinguishers, did laundry, spray-washed sidewalks, worked in the woodshop and gift shop and more. They met with the camp director every morning and were given new tasks depending upon what the camp needed help with that day. Robert and Janet worked six to eight hours a day Monday through Friday and took off the weekends, when they enjoyed hiking and looking at the scenery. The camp provided a place for their fifth wheel and gave them meals in the cafeteria when the camps were in session.

“Many of the camp staff is high school and college students, and it is so refreshing to see young people so willing to serve others,” Janet said. “We had a lot of fun getting acquainted with them. The Lord has blessed us in so many ways, so we want to give back with all that we can. We are making a difference in the lives of the youth, and they too are making a difference in our lives. We plan to volunteer at the camp again next summer for at least three months.”

In addition to their work at the camp, Robert teaches Sunday school class at Baptist Retirement Community and leads music at the chapel services every Tuesday. Janet volunteers at the Baptist Retirement Community thrift shop and gift shop. She also volunteers to play the piano or organ at the chapel, and visits residents in skilled nursing. Both Robert and Janet sing in the Glory Choir at Baptist Retirement Community.

“We do everything together–have been for the past 54 years,” Janet said. “Volunteering and our travels bring us closer together. We travel as much as we can. We just got back from Branson, Mo., and North Dakota and hope to plan a trip to Oregon next year. You have to follow your passions while you can.”

“The Sartains are very generous and have given back in so many meaningful ways,” said Quinda Feil-Duncan, executive director of Baptist Retirement Community. “We are privileged that they chose Baptist Retirement Community as their home and think it is wonderful that they take time to give back to their neighbors here. We could all learn something from the Sartains–that life is best lived when we use our skills and talents to help others. Looking ahead to the New Year, many of us will be making resolutions for ourselves, and the Sartains have inspired us to think beyond ourselves and think about what goals we can set to positively impact others.”

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