Coordinator helps people find their niche
The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program helps individuals 55 and older put their skills and life experience to work for their communities. More than 450,000 seniors participate in RSVP, making it one of the largest volunteer efforts in the nation.
Volunteers serve from a few hours a day to 20 hours a week, doing just about everything. They tutor students, renovate homes, plant gardens and program computers. However they choose to serve, RSVP volunteers meet community needs and make a lasting difference.
For 25 years, RSVP has matched problems to be solved with people willing to help. In Carson City, the key person responsible for coordinating more than 160 volunteers is Peg Wolfe.
“Just to get people off the couch and out of the house to volunteer is hard,” said Wolfe. “And we can always use more volunteers.”
Joyce Loyd, who has volunteered about 18 months, says her volunteer time is a steady 10 hours a week. But if Wolfe needs her for spot jobs, she tries to make herself available.
“I have one home companion I visit every Wednesday,” said Loyd. “Plus I volunteer at the library.
“I retired two years ago while my husband and I were living in Riverside. He retired in 1982. After moving to Carson City, I needed something to do because I had worked all my life. I wasn’t used to just sitting around.
“I had gone to the library – I like to read – and they told me about RSVP. I’ve told others to contact RSVP, there are so many things they could be doing. So many people tell me, ‘I guess I could do that,’ but, I’m not sure they have. They just need to get out and do it.”
Wolfe noted most of the women who volunteer are widowed. She said they have time on their hands.
Wolfe, herself married for 50 years until the death of her husband three years ago, works Monday through Wednesday at the RSVP office and at the Medicaid office on Thursdays. She rarely forgets to thank those who help her out.
“We have a nice crew here today,” said Wolfe, glancing over the 15 or so volunteers helping with USDA Food Commodities distribution at the Carson City Community Center gymnasium.
“Ray Slope, one of our volunteers, is one of those angels without wings. He will do absolutely anything he can to help someone. He also drives the van to Reno on Wednesdays to take people to their medical appointments.
“One day a woman who is blind came in for her commodities and had to wait for a ride home. After she sat for more than two hours, Ray finally just took her to her home himself.”
Volunteers choose how and where they want to serve. Many have continued the type of work they enjoyed earlier in life and others try something completely different. Areas of volunteering include mentoring at-risk youths, teaching English to immigrants, organizing neighborhood watch groups, helping people recover from natural disasters or making hospital visits.
“Mel Renouf here, he’s 88 years old and has two artificial knees that have a mind of their own, but he’s here every time helping me out,” said Wolfe.
Volunteers receive an orientation and appropriate on-the-job training. While on duty, they also receive insurance to cover on-the-job activities. RSVP serves nonprofit businesses like public schools, government offices, charitable organizations and Home Companion work.
RSVP has helped seniors stay active and involved with their community. It is a useful way for them to give back to their community after their community has giving them so much. Staying active helps people live longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives.
“I call my volunteers the Monday before distribution day to remind them and they tell me, ‘I know what day it is.’ They don’t have to be reminded. They look forward to helping out. These volunteers are the best.”