ROCKLAND, Maine — Volunteers are unpaid because they are priceless — not because they are worthless.
That message came through loud and clear Tuesday afternoon at the Rockland Elks Club for the attendees of the Penquis Retired & Senior Volunteer Program Volunteer Recognition Luncheon.
“They’re very important,” Patty Ott, division manager of Penquis RSVP, said after the luncheon of the organization’s 233 active members.
Those members log 2,000 to 4,000 hours a month at their volunteer jobs in Waldo, Knox and Lincoln counties at schools, museums, libraries, soup kitchens, elder housing, hospitals, thrift shops and clinics, and by providing one-to-one services to the elderly and the shut-in.
The program is part of the national Senior Corps, and helps match interested volunteers with safe, interesting positions that make an impact on the needs of the community, according to program staff.
Many of the RSVP volunteers — all of whom must be at least 55 years old — said the benefits they receive from their jobs are priceless, too.
“It gives them a reason to get up in the morning,” Ott said. “That’s what some of them tell me.”
Pinny Beebe-Center, regional manager for Penquis, said volunteering lets seniors know that “somebody depends on them again.”
It’s a powerful feeling, she said.
Volunteer Joanne Brackett, who retired after working for 20 years as a secretary in Rockland’s MacDougal School, found that life could be a little lonely.
“I missed seeing the people,” she said Tuesday. “I needed to get out and socialize.”
So in June she began volunteering at the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland, and found that the work suited her.
“It’s a beautiful museum, and it keeps me busy,” she said. “I enjoy getting out.”
Bob Sierer of Tenants Harbor said the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum in Port Clyde is a “wonderful place to volunteer.”
“People come from all over the world,” said the 75-year-old retired educator.
Other RSVP volunteers read to preschool children through the “Born to Read” program, and a group of women who have dubbed themselves the Knit-Wits knit hats and more for needy community members and also prepare 12,000 packets of utensils each year for the Maine Lobster Festival. Some volunteers go into nursing homes to help seniors prevent falls and stay healthy.
Ott said the RSVP program accepts volunteers with all kinds of work and educational background.
“Anyone is welcome,” she said.
For information about Penquis RSVP in Rockland, call 596-0361 or visit http://penquis.org.