The Retired Senior Volunteer Program, better known as RSVP, is one of the largest volunteer networks in the nation for people 55 and over. The RSVP volunteers focus on these types of services- tutoring and mentoring students, assisting and caring for the elderly, supporting relief teams when disasters strike and more.
This nation-wide program has an office for Marion and surrounding counties with Erin Miller as the local contact person for volunteers and community organizations. Though the program has been around for a number of years, it is working to reestablish itself in Marion County. Erin is reaching out to different organizations and volunteers to again make this a strong program in our community.
Their goal is to reach out to people who are 55 years old and older, retired or not, to get them involved in the community through volunteering. Especially when people retire they often find they are not as involved or looking for ways to help in the community. RSVP is there to assist.
In the Marion community, they are working with mentoring programs like Marion Mentors 21 and a number of food pantry programs and delivery services, like Meals on Wheels through LifeCare Alliance.
Tara Dyer is a Meals on Wheels volunteer who knew nothing about the benefits of RSVP until she connected with Erin Miller through the Marion Mentors program. “When I sat down with Tara to explain RSVP more in-depth and my hope to grow our volunteer base within Marion County, she immediately said she was a Meals on Wheels driver,” said Miller. “I explained our possible benefits to her, and she wanted to get involved.”
RSVP is also working with companionship programs for people living at home but cannot get out of their homes. Volunteers do wellness checks to brighten the days of those that are homebound. They are currently developing a program called “Phone a Friend” which will allow RSVP volunteers to connect with people at home, socialize and check in on them, helping these individuals to remain at home safely and feeling like part of their community.
There are multiple benefits to those who are volunteering. Beyond the good feeling of contributing to our community and getting out and about with others, the RSVP program might have additional benefits depending on the volunteer position. For these assisting with the Meals on Wheels program, there is a mileage stipend that might be available. Another possibility is supplemental insurance coverage, beyond what an individual’s carry, if injured while volunteering. The RSVP office also has hosted an annual banquet, recognizing the efforts of their volunteer corps in Marion County.
It is proven that volunteering creates happier, healthier lives while making a difference in the community. According to a national study sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service, 84% of older adults reported improved or stable health, after two years of service in RSVP. 32% of RSVP volunteers who reported good or stable health, after two years of service reported improved health at the two-year follow-up.
Also, the study reported that 78% of those who reported five or more symptoms with depression at the beginning of the study said they felt less depressed two years later. 88% of RSVP volunteers who first described a lack of companionship reported a decrease in feelings of isolation after two years.
Marion has a vital and active senior population that has been volunteering and making a difference for many years in our county. RSVP just offers assistance to help our seniors to continue volunteering to help others while connecting and making strong relationships themselves. RSVP just wants help and to rebuild their corps of Marion volunteers that help throughout the county. As Erin Miller, RSVP coordinator, stated, “An opportunity has been missed in Marion for RSVP to help those that are 55 and older get out into the community and be involved. RSVP wants to be part of Marion’s vital volunteer workforce. We want to augment what has been done and provide more opportunities.”
If you want to be an RSVP volunteer or see how your organization might be able to work with the local RSVP office visit www.fcsserves.org or contact Erin directly by calling 567-393-6446 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.