To librarian Dana Wilson, Paul Junius is the consummate volunteer. Wilson, who has worked with Junius in literacy and English as a Second Language programs, finds the retired linotype operator and neighborhood resident dependable and enthusiastic.
“He keeps his eyes open for opportunities,” she says.
When Wilson started an ESL program at the Skillman-Southwestern Branch of the Dallas Public Library, Junius took it upon himself to search for grants to support the program.
When he noticed that most of the janitorial staff at NorthPark Mall were immigrants, he proposed approaching the management to hold classes there.
“He’s a tremendously enthusiastic person,” Wilson says. Family illness and other commitments have forced Junius to give up teaching in the ESL program, but the two keep in touch.
“Every conversation I have with him, he tells me about one of his volunteer activities,” Wilson says.
Junius, however, downplays his role.
“Don’t pay too much attention to what Dana Wilson says,” says Junius with a laugh.
Yes, he has tutored elementary school students, delivered food for Sisters of Charity and helped distribute holiday items for Metrocrest Social Service Center. He even has shaped bread to raise funds for the group “For the Love of the Lake.”
But Junius is quick to point out that he, too, benefits from his activities.
“As a rule, you’re helping those less advantaged than yourself,” Junius says. “It makes you happier with yourself. One can see the needs in the community and say: I’m doing something.”
The idea of making a contribution and doing good work is reflected in his choice of charities.
“People are really elevated above their own abilities” when a crisis occurs and they are moved to help, such as when Hurricane Mitch devastated Honduras, Junius says.
“On the other hand, community social problems are constant things. Maybe they aren’t glamorous enough to attract people,” but the work remains to be done, he says.
The social issue closest to Junius’ heart is adult literacy. A voracious reader, he became a Literacy Volunteer of America tutor after reading an article about the organization.
“It’s quite interesting” to work with LVA, he says, “because you see the other side of the coin, how you might have ended up if your life had been different.”
Also rewarding is the bond that develops between students and teachers. Junius recalls one student who moved to Red Oak, south of Dallas, but continued to attend class with Junius.
“I guess the teacher-learner thing becomes so close, it becomes difficult for them” to look for another instructor, he says.
He wishes more seniors would volunteer and more organizations would encourage them.
“You meet a lot of people,” he says. “The time demands aren’t all that extra. But the payoff in the end is quite good.”