After a lifetime of hard work, many spend their twilight years taking it easy.
Freeland resident Wren Maclean is not one of those people. Maclean is more likely to be found volunteering at various organizations, exercising or digging through a hefty stack of reading materials.
“I’m a churchgoer, and somewhere down the line I got the bug to be relevant to other people’s lives,” Maclean said. “Trust me, I had my fair share of playing golf and cards, but I just felt like I had to be relevant. Once I started volunteering, it never stopped.”
Maclean celebrated his 100th birthday this past Thursday, a day after he made his weekly stop by the Helping Hand office in Freeland to volunteer his time for the charity. Maclean has been volunteering at the organization, which helps people in need pay their bills, for more than 30 years. While he claims he isn’t one of the original volunteers, his time there stems back to its very early days. He continues to handle case management, working directly with customers.
He makes suggestions on how to change their financial situation and can refer customers to services available to them on the island.
Helping Hand isn’t the only organization on South Whidbey Maclean volunteers with. He’s also been with Good Cheer Food Bank for a similar amount of time. Despite his age and having put in his volunteer dues, Maclean remains on a mission to help others and doesn’t see himself stopping anytime soon.
“I just think it’s remarkable that, in his age, he is still out there giving back to the community,” said Rosemary Martin, executive director of Helping Hand. “He wants to put himself out there, and we don’t have a problem with that because he’s well equipped.”
“He’s very healthy, and his mind is still sharp as a tack,” said Judy Kenning, a Helping Hand volunteer.
Maclean has aimed to live a more selfless life since moving to Whidbey Island 37 years ago. He says he and his late wife, Mitzi Maclean, “picked up the itch to volunteer,” after what he describes as a few years of golf, and he’s never looked back. As Maclean says, once they “arrived” they “got it.”
That was a while back; the Macleans were Hometown Heroes in a 2002 edition of The Record. They were nominated for their giving nature and dedication to volunteerism.
“I think for him, volunteering is a habit,” Martin said. “He’s compassionate, but very much a realist at the same time. I think that makes him an ideal volunteer.”
Maclean credits his initial interest in selflessness to his faith. In the Hometown Heroes story about him and his wife, he said he had an epiphany in his 20s when a friend told him the $2 he placed on the church plate “ain’t gonna cut it.”
For Maclean, the core message of religion is to lend a helping hand, much like the charity he continues to volunteer for.
“Church attendance is not like it used to be, but I think the church is still very relevant,” Maclean said. “At some point, you get the message to help the orphans, the widows and the under-served and that sticks with you for the rest of your life.”
Maclean says volunteerism is a way for him to stay active and mentally sharp into his twilight years. It isn’t the only way he does that, despite joking his fountain of youth is “a mystery” to him. He regularly goes to the gym despite his age, and chooses to keep up with current news rather than watch the TV. He also contributes his good health to the way he eats; he grew up before the advent of fast food, and he’s continued to stay away from processed food throughout his life.
All of those habits have led him to become one of South Whidbey’s most philanthropic seniors at 100-years-old. Most importantly, he says he still feels relevant, which inspires him to keep chugging along.
He hopes to see others do the same.
“I just hope people will think about getting off the self-centered thing and help somebody else,” Maclean said. “The world could use a bit of that right now.”