Bob and Susan Harris make an amazing team, not only as husband and wife of 42 years, but also as community-minded citizens of Oconee County.
From recording books for the blind to helping with the Special Olympics and serving as judges of pine box derby cars, collectively the couple has given back throughout their lives.
A passion for volunteerism began early for Susan when she served as a candy striper as a teen in her home state of Indiana.
“I did this from 13 to 17 years-old. every Saturday morning for four to five hours," she said. "I also loved the ER and worked there when I was 16 and 17.”
Helping those with disabilities is particularly close to Susan's heart.
“My brother was severely disabled and I have always helped with his programs, even as a young child, volunteering became something I did on a regular basis. I have always felt blessed that my children are healthy and that I am healthy and that we live a comfortable life," she said. "I get angry when people complain for no good reason. They should get out and volunteer for people and see how very fortunate they really are!”
For the last five years, she's been dispatching and driving disabled veterans to the Ga. Highway 29, occasionally driving to the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta on emergency runs.
She has also recording books for the blind, served as a CASA volunteer, was a room mother for 18 years, a Brownie/Girl Scout leader for six, and a co-op preschool president. She's aided with the Special Olympics track and field and bowling competitions. Susan has volunteered through the Pilot Club and the Keep Oconee County Beautiful Commission. A former science teacher, Susan has also donated hours of her time to help out in her granddaughter's elementary classroom.
“I feel a need to help people," she said. "It gives me a lot of joy and satisfaction when someone says thanks or just smiles in gratitude.”
Her husband Bob enjoys working with mechanical things, so he volunteers with Bike Athens.
“At Christmastime they give bikes away to needy children who might otherwise not get anything from Santa," he explained. "They also give new helmets with each bike. They take old bikes and rebuild them, this can take several months. They also fix bikes for people who rely on them to go to work.”
Together the couple has fed the hungry and judged pine box derby cars
Both Susan's and Bob's efforts to help others is inspiring to those who know them, including their adult daughters, Suki, Amy and Robin.
"My biggest inspiration in life are my parents; my dad's work ethic I try to emulate and my mom doesn't know a stranger and has always been eager to help anyone and give more than she ever receives," Suki Janssen said. " I can only hope that at the end of my life I have done everything I can do to help those in need around me just like my parents have guided me to do."
“I lead by example,” Susan said.“ I tell [my daughters] how fortunate they are to have a home and a family who cares. They have enough food to eat and have their health.
"I have taken my girls to deliver meals to poor, old and disabled people. They have seen firsthand how some people live and how happy it makes them when they hear, 'Thanks.'"
If you're looking for ways to volunteer, the following are links to just some of the area organizations that can get you started:
- Oconee Area Resource Council
- Pilot Club
- Rotary Club of Oconee County
- Oconee Lions Club
- Athens Area Humane Society
- Oconee County Civitan Club
- Extra Special People
- Keep Oconee County Beautiful Commission
- Oconee County Animal Shelter
- State Botanical Garden