82-year-old proves you are never too old to help others

Martha Crespo tends flowering Ixora during spare weekend hours.

Taking a bus to her “job” doesn’t faze this Kendall senior. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, Martha Crespo, 82, leaves her home and walks three blocks to wait for Metrobus No. 71 to take her to a Publix on Bird Road.

After crossing SW 40th Street, she boards a second bus to the downtown Government Center where she walks four blocks to a parking garage at 190 SE Third St.

That’s where she begins her volunteer three-hour shift at Switchboard of Miami, helping other seniors with call-in problems. Martha has kept to this routine, rain or shine, for more than four years and has no intention of changing.

“Well, sometimes I drive my car to the Publix and then catch the downtown bus,” said the spry Cuban-born grandmother, adding that a senior pass allows her free bus rides for a twice-weekly round trip of up to six hours.

“I just help with simple things, like telling an elderly caller where to shop or find something they might need,” she said of her Switchboard hours. “So many older folks live alone; many of them only want to hear someone’s voice.”

Descended from parents born in Majorca, Spain, Martha and her late husband, Angel, arrived in the U.S. in New York from Cuba in 1960. A marine mechanic on ship voyages, Angel didn’t want his family living in the city and moved to Charlestown, a Boston suburb famed for its shipyards. Her husband died in 1998. “We learned what it is to be newcomers to a country there,” she recalled. “We were the only Cubans, living where everyone else was Irish.” The Crespo family moved to Florida in 1980 when Angel retired from his service aboard ships and Martha began a new career as a computer specialist with Barnett Bank, retiring in 1998.

Today, when not “working” at Switchboard, you may find her delivering food to a shut-in neighbor or helping with a church event. On election days, she supervises a Miami-Dade precinct at a nearby elementary school, explaining voting procedures to those with language problems.

“Martha’s a dynamo,” said Alexandria Schneider, team leader of the Seniors Never Alone program at Switchboard. “She’s such a positive person that she inspires everyone around her.

“She gets others to get involved in their own community, too,” Schneider added.

On spare weekend hours, Martha will relax with family and her two pet cats while trimming and tidying up walkways winding among her backyard tropical trees and exotic plants.

“I just like helping people,” she replied when asked why she does so much at this stage in her life. “By helping someone else, you feel better yourself.”

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