When 79-year-old Bart Sharp makes a commitment, he follows through, in a big way. The Staten Island, New Yorker says before retiring, he worked between 70 and 80 hour weeks at a bank. He’s a veteran who served in the U.S. Army Security Agency. He is the proud father of seven children, and has fostered 17 children, adopting two of them who were born addicted to drugs. And as he approaches his eighth decade, Bart is characteristically doubling down on his commitment to volunteerism.
An AmeriCorps Seniors volunteer for the past seven years, Bart has served with Meals on Wheels to provide nutritional meals to homebound seniors and also with SCORE, offering what’s become lifesaving support for many small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bart is humble about his volunteerism, and says he’s not alone in his service. Bart says he was particularly struck by how many other seniors joined efforts to deliver urgent help during the pandemic.
“Before the vaccines, a lot of people were afraid to go out.” says Bart. “We’d meet at a truck to pick up meals to deliver, and I saw a handful of senior citizens delivering to other seniors. That was really something that inspired me to say, gee, some of these people look older than me. My gosh, she’s out there willing to help deliver meals even though she runs the risk of getting COVID. There were a lot of people out there, they weren’t home taking care of themselves, they were out helping others.”
Alongside his wife, Bart delivers to up to 20 homes each week, serving up healthy food to seniors in need and providing much needed wellness checks, friendship and occasional laughter during what’s been an unprecedented isolating time for many.
“Giving back seems like the natural thing for me to do. I hate to say this, but it makes me feel good. You get to know your clients, and after awhile, when you don’t see them, you either know they went to a nursing home or God forbid, they died. We’re probably the only person they see all day long sometimes. Some of them try to keep you there for a conversation, it perks them up. I delivered to one client for one year and never saw her, only saw the home health aide. One day, the aide asked if I’d like to meet the client. It was this little frail old woman. The aide introduced me and said, ‘I told you, he looks just like your dead husband!’ (Laughs) It made the woman laugh, it was a good moment.”
In addition to his Meals on Wheels service, Bart is a SCORE mentor and the vice chair of the Staten Island SCORE chapter where he gives business advice and resources using his experience as a CPA. Connecting in-person prior to the pandemic, Bart now provides remote help to business owners and people looking to start a business, including virtual counseling sessions and webinars to help clients navigate COVID-19 relief amid difficult economic times. Bart enjoys helping others, and says because of the switch to virtual help, he’s become a dedicated 24/7 resource for some.
“I have spoken to clients at 8 p.m. at night, Saturdays, Sunday night and morning. Whenever I’m available. We were just down in Florida on vacation, and one day I spoke with a client for 2 1/2 hours. (Laughs) My wife is looking at me, saying, ‘We’re supposed to be on vacation!’
His assistance has helped to keep small business owners afloat during the pandemic, who otherwise may have been lost without guidance.
“One lady, her father owned a soda distributorship in Brooklyn. She was taking over the business and needed help with forms for PPP. She’d call up, I’d tell her what form and banks to get in touch with. I got her a whole list of banks, they gave her loan paperwork, I walked her through the whole process. She was so happy, she got the loan, and she was able to keep the business open. It’s been over two years since I helped her, she’s still up and running.”
Calling him a man of service, fellow SCORE mentor Gerry Harkin says there need to be more individuals like Bart in the world, comparing Bart’s reliable volunteerism to that of a Swiss-made watch.
“Bart’s humanitarian volunteerism has truly helped the many, many elderly sit-ins to whom he delivers nutrition via Meals on Wheels; Bart also provides skilled mentoring expertise on the new business internet facilities for start-up enterprises,” says Gerry. “Bart has the patience of a saint and believes in the good will of everyone he meets. He humbly provides everyone with the solid benefit of his wisdom. Our country needs more ‘Bart Sharp’s’ to sustain our sovereignty.”
“That’s volunteering,” says Bart. “You keep doing it. Every little bit helps. [If volunteering was a] gallon jug, every little drop helps. Volunteering is a drop here, a drop there, and before you know it, the gallon jug has been filled. If you have a thousand people doing it, it fills up more quickly.”
Bart isn’t slowing down anytime soon, and encourages others to give back, in any capacity they can.
“You don’t have to donate a million dollars, you can donate an hour of your time. Every person who can breathe basically can volunteer. We’re all part of the same human race, we’re all in it together, therefore we should all help each other. It’s not a gimme, gimme, gimme world, it’s a give back world also. There are a thousand organizations out there. You have to give back to the poor, help everyone else, you can’t just think about yourself.”
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Bart Sharp? Find local volunteer opportunities.