Above: A Hartsfield-Jackson volunteer assists a fellow passenger. Courtesy of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

One of the most important things DeAllous Smith, Public Relations Manager at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, wants Atlanta area seniors to know about is the airport’s volunteer program.

“Once a year, we have quite a celebration to thank all those who help us welcome our many travelers,” added Director of Guest Relations Steve Mayers.

Seniors often help at information desks and other important areas. Volunteers receive perks such as a MARTA pass or paid parking fees, along with a food coupon that’s appropriate for their required four-hour volunteer shift.

One such volunteer is Brian Keiser, 54, from Atlanta’s Buckhead area.

Keiser says he found the airport a good match with his past personal travel experiences and his ability to speak German along with his understanding of some Spanish.

“I also still work part time,” he said. Keiser retired from his full-time work about two and a half years ago.

The people he meets from all over the world makes his volunteer work worthwhile, says Keiser. “I’ve met people from Australia, South Africa, China, Russia, Ukraine and all over the U.S. and Europe.”

His volunteer location is often at the top of the escalators in the arrival area. “We’re the first real contact a lot of people have with Atlanta residents,” Keiser said. “I’ve lived in Atlanta most of my life and I enjoy sharing what I know and love about this city,” he explained with a fair amount of enthusiasm.

Hartsfield-Jackson volunteers are easy to spot in their bright red vests, and can be found at information desks; in the mall area, where they direct passengers to their gates; or around baggage claim areas, where they provide information about ground transportation at both domestic and international terminals.

“Anybody can volunteer,” said Keiser. “But there are some skills that I think are especially important to have. The most important one is the ability to interact with an incredibly diverse group of people.”

It’s also helpful to understand the challenges and stress that many people experience when traveling, he says.

“That’s especially important when dealing with infrequent flyers,” Keiser said.

He explained that for some, it might be their first trip on a plane, and their needs vary dramatically from business travelers who are on the road 200 days a year.

“Every day is a different experience,” said Keiser.

 If you’re interested in becoming a Hartsfield-Jackson Volunteer, email volunteer@atl.com, call the Volunteer Office at 404-382-2189 or visit Atl.com, click on Volunteers at the bottom of the page and complete an online volunteer application form.

Judi Kanne

Judi Kanne is a public health communications consultant and contributing writer to Atlanta Senior Life.