Election 2010: The Old Guard. Retirees Find Youth in Volunteerism

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Gene and Harriet Badeshein were the coolest kids at the biggest party on the block. The couple was difficult to miss standing outside the suite at the Owyhee Plaza dedicated to gubernatorial candidate Keith Allred. The Badesheins are the couple that you wish could be your grandparents — with kind eyes, genuine smiles, and sweet faces. They stood together in their matching bright blue T-shirts baring Allred’s name, shaking hands and exchanging hugs with the never-ceasing stream of supporters that slithered down the hallway. They knew almost everyone by name, and their dedication to the cause was easily evidenced in the way that they spoke about Allred; “

He just has high moral standards and really fine ideas about what the government should do for the people,” Harriet said, her voice filled with the kind of pride generally reserved for parents beaming about their children.

The Badesheins began volunteering for Allred’s campaign at the beginning, “When Keith was still doing house parties,” Gene explained. The mass of volunteers at democratic headquarters on the night of Nov. 2 was an eclectic mix of college students, career-oriented individuals, and parents keeping a close eye on their obviously bored offspring. The Badesheins, however, belonged to the most apparent and perhaps largest group of campaign volunteers — the retirees.

Gene and Harriet could be called serial volunteers. They’ve assisted at the Sun Valley Music Festival, various schools, and Ponderosa Park during the summers — not to mention several political campaigns. Harriet’s cheeks were rosy as she explained the reason for the couple’s constant volunteerism: “I think people should give back, and frankly, people our age who just sit at home get old. And we’re not ready to get old.”
Old certainly isn’t the word to describe this vivacious couple, even though Gene recently celebrated his 80th birthday. They’re active, well-networked, and exceptionally social. Gene, an Idaho native, spent 30 years working for Idaho Power, and more than seven working for Boise State University. Harriet is a transplant from New York City, but has been in Idaho since 1971. She spent 28 years working for the Boise School District, and her love for children was apparent when she recalled seeing Allred’s children helping with his campaign:

“It was just precious to watch them with their little fists, sealing the envelopes," said Harriet. "It was amazing.”

Even prior to the announcement of Allred’s defeat, Gene admitted that it was going to be a “Tough night for democrats, we know that, and yet there’s more enthusiasm here than any previous year’s gathering that I’ve been to.” But for this exceptional couple, volunteering isn’t about ensuring a win — it’s about giving back and meeting people. “You’d be amazed at the fine people that you meet,” Harriet said, “They are really the quality people of the city.”

The Badesheins haven’t ever disagreed on a cause or a candidate to volunteer for during their 23-year marriage, and they aren’t too worried about it happening in the near future. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Harriet said with a matter-of-fact tone.
At the end of the evening, Gene placed his hand on Harriet’s slightly stooped shoulder, and the couple meandered toward the stairs. It had been a long evening, and the couple was ready to call it a night. They were unsure about their next volunteering venture.

“We’re going to take a deep breath, we’ll tell you down the road — we’re not sure what’s next at this point” Harriet said, an exhausted look in her eyes. "We’re ready for a ready for a little rest. It’s been very hectic, but it’s been good,”