ATWATER — Clifford Monte is spending retirement just like he always wanted to.
The 67-year-old Atwater resident stays involved in the community through volunteer work with different groups.
"I think I feel very lucky because this was my idea of retirement -- living in a small place," he said. "I always wanted to donate time and do it in places that I wanted."
Monte, who worked for United Airlines at San Francisco International Airport for 30 years, moved to Atwater from Modesto in 2009 and has been volunteering at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center for a little longer than two years.
He also volunteers with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul through St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Atwater. The society collects food and clothes to give to those in need.
Monte is involved in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, a group connected to St. Anthony's. As part of the group, he helps educate people who want to become Catholic or who are Catholic but want to get more fully involved with the teachings of the church.
In addition, he serves as the Atwater representative on the Merced County Area Agency on Aging board.
He volunteers four to five hours per week at the arts center and has an on-call paid position at the Arbor Gallery inside the arts center.
When he moved to Atwater, Monte started looking for places to volunteer. "I wanted to be a part of the community," he said.
Laura Phillips, executive director of the arts center, said she is glad to have Monte as a volunteer.
"Cliff is our best and most faithful volunteer," she said. "He's here at least once a week, and comes to lots of events as well. I love having him because he talks to everyone and makes everyone feel welcome."
Monte said he finds fulfillment from being out in the community. Through his volunteer work, he is exposed to people from all walks of life, he said.
"You really can see the community -- you can feel the community," he said. "It's like being alive and not just being retired sitting in the front porch."
Monte mostly greets people and works at the reception desk or works the bar when there are events at the arts center. He said he enjoys talking to people and welcoming them to the center, especially because it's not just people of one age group.
"We greet them and tell them a little bit about the show that's going on," he said.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDITOR'S NOTE: 'Merced Matters' appears every Monday. In it we will tell the stories of Mercedians -- ordinary people doing extraordinary things, extraordinary people doing ordinary things and a lot in between. We hope you like our effort to let you know more about others in our community, and we welcome your suggestions. Please contact Victor Patton at email@example.com or (209) 385-2431 with your ideas for 'Merced Matters.'