From the community

Volunteers lend a hand, life a heart, make a difference

Posted Nov. 16, 2010, at 9:30 p.m.

by Carol Higgins Taylor

Paula Burnett has a question for you: “Would you like possibly to live longer, put smiles on people’s faces, solve problems, learn something new, engage in intergenerational activities, make new friends and serve your community?”
If you answered yes, Burnett has a plan for you.

“To make these kinds of differences in your life and in the lives of others, the answer is simple: volunteer,” she said.
The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, typically known as RSVP, falls under the stewardship of the University of Maine Center on Aging, and while a part of the name, a volunteer doesn’t really need to be retired to become a member.

“We can help you get started whether you are still working or not,” said Paula Burnett, director of RSVP. “In fact some volunteers often develop a second career in life as a result of discovering new passions through volunteer service.”

There are only two requirements to becoming a volunteer for RSVP. You must be age 55 or older and have a desire to help your neighbors in need.
The number of hours spent volunteering depends on the individual and can be anywhere between two and 40 hours per week.

“In fact, there are hundreds of RSVP volunteers all around us working everywhere from schools and libraries to hospitals and museums,” said Burnett. The opportunities are endless and will continue as long as the community’s needs continue, she added.

“RSVP currently has the senior power of approximately 450 members serving at over 80 nonprofit agencies, schools, and public service facilities,” said Burnett. “Membership is free, mileage reimbursement is available and members are covered by supplemental accident and liability insurance. We also have an annual recognition event to recognize outstanding volunteer service and to show appreciation for those who know the value of giving back.”

RSVP is part of the National Senior Service Corps founded in the 1970s for people 55 and older who want to use their life experiences and job skills to strengthen their communities.

As a member, you will choose where, when and how you will volunteer with the opportunities being numerous and varied.
“Our RSVP coordinator, Chevelle Marshall, will gladly assist anyone with finding a meaningful volunteer opportunity,” said Burnett.

Some of the members volunteer at museums as docents, read to children at early childhood care centers, lead senior exercise classes, deliver Meals on Wheels and serve nutritious meals to seniors at some of Eastern Area Agency on Aging’s Community Cafes. Others serve as advisory board members, volunteer in hospitals and with hospices.

While RSVP is always looking for new volunteers, current volunteer needs include positions as activity aides at nursing homes and adult day programs, presenters for community education on senior health and safety and those who would like to teach computer skills to seniors.

“We provide meaningful volunteer opportunities that help make the community a better place to live,” said Burnett. “By working with other agencies and businesses to address the needs in our service area, when it’s put all together we can say, ‘Wow, look at all the great things we have accomplished as a community.’”

RSVP covers Penobscot, Piscataquis, Hancock and Washington counties and receives funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service, the state of Maine Office of Elder Services, the Bangor Rotary and United Way of Eastern Maine.

If you would like more information on RSVP or to find RSVP in your area, call Burnett at 262-7926 or Chevelle Marshall at 262-7924.

“Lend a hand, lift a heart and improve your health by volunteering,” said Burnett. “And every hour makes a difference.”

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. E-mail Higgins Taylor at chtaylor@eaaa.org. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free 800-432-7812, e-mail info@eaaa.org or log on EAAA.org. TTY 992-0150.

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