Interview: Nancy Reynolds' Secret

Retired teacher Nancy Reynolds is happy. She has learned a secret of happy people which I’m going to tell you. Helping other people makes you happy!

She started volunteering for the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) Christian Values Conference in 1976 and, except for a few breaks here and there, has been doing it ever since. She got involved when the activity director Don Kyzer at her school “conned” her into doing the program. He told her she’d get to go relax in the mountains of North Carolina, but when she got there, she found out she was supposed to facilitate sessions with the teens.

“What I like about it is it’s not like a church camp. We do have a chaplain; we have devotions in the morning. There was the theme this year, God is here. It just goes down the path of making good choices, which you need to reiterate with high school kids. We keep them busy. When we hit the mountain, they get one afternoon free and that’s it…But once we get them up there, they want to come back,” said Reynolds.

They’ve had all kinds of campers in the years she’s been a leader. This year they had a gender challenged kid on the trip whose parents forced him to come. “This kid was totally accepted and about the third day said he couldn’t wait to come back the next year.” Reynold says she teaches the opposite of what kids usually hear. “It’s uncool to be cool. The sillier you are, the crazier you are, the more you are with the majority.” That’s how she gets all the kids on board.

She reminds me that any teen can go on the Blue Ridge trip because they do a fundraiser every month through the Y in Fort Walton Beach, Florida and the kids all have an account. If a student works on a fundraiser, they get part of the proceeds.

She’s also added some more charities to her circle, namely her church Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, a no kill cat shelter called Save Our Cats and Kittens (SOCKS) there also, and the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer (MSABC) in Destin, Florida.

Since I’ve retired, I am so happy. I am 25 pounds lighter. I am so happy. I have something every day to do for someone else. I just think if we just had more people volunteering, we would have less depression. There’s a purpose for every day when you get up, there’s something to do. I find a lot of people my age they’re bored, they get tired of being by themselves. It’s so easy to get involved. It’s so easy to find people out there who need help, or animals. If you spend one afternoon purging stuff from the thrift store at SOCKS, you just feel so good.”

When asked what advice she would give those interested in doing community service she says, “Sometimes you fall into things if you just try them. If you can join a church there’s always something for you to do. The retired teachers, they do a lot. (There’s the) Junior Women’s League, the Homeless Coalition down at the Chamber. I got interested in that. I guess you’ve got to get your listening ears out, read it in the paper, find out from the Chamber. You just gotta get yourself out in the public.”

She volunteers at SOCKS as the publicity chair on the board and spends a day a week in the thrift store or wherever they need her. She says that SOCKS needs board members, volunteers, a corporate sponsor, and someone to do an audit of SOCKS so it can get grants. Soon, the facility will also need new roofs on its two buildings.

As for MSABC, she’s putting out challenges to churches and is trying to get the schools involved. Her church had a team last year and did a great fundraiser. “They had a naked spaghetti dinner. Everybody brought sauces. Somebody brought a salad and a bottle of wine. They made $500 that night and they didn’t spend a dime.”

MSABC needs teams to walk and fundraise. It’s open to everyone—families, churches, clubs, whatever. You can also walk in memory of or in honor of someone who has had cancer.

What has this veteran of teaching and life have to add as her secret to living a happy life? “I think keeping your health is so important. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t help anyone else. You know, eating well, and exercising, and I find people at the gym, and I find out things to do through them. I’m also a believer in getting up in the morning and getting your requirements out of the way. I am done by 9 (with my workout) and I’ve got the whole day to do what I need to do.”

She has found out the secret to being happy—helping others. What a great vision for retired people and everyone. If you want to help with any of her endeavors, send me an email to or put a comment below and I’ll put you in touch. Thank you, Nancy for sharing your secret with my readers!


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