WASHINGTON WATCH: Don’t overlook volunteers’ vital role | NevadaAppeal.com

WASHINGTON WATCH: Don’t overlook volunteers’ vital role

Janice Ayres

It is still difficult for me to comprehend why the House of Representatives would pass a bill not once, but twice, that would eliminate the Corporation for National and Community Services, which oversees programs utilizing millions of volunteers. If passed by the Senate, this would pink-slip millions of dedicated volunteers. Fortunately it didn’t get by the Senate the first time, and hopefully it won’t get passed the second time.

The United States just celebrated Senior Corps Week, at which time CNCS joined with organizations across the country to honor the powerful impact that Senior Corps volunteers (RSVP, Foster Grandparent, Senior Companion programs) have on this nation and to encourage more Americans 55 and older to help serve in their communities.

For more than four decades, Senior Corps volunteers have used their lifetime of skills and experience to meet community needs. At a time of increased need and declining resources, these volunteers are stepping up to the plate to fill the many gaps in service to those most in need. In addition to helping others, older volunteers are also helping themselves by living active, healthy lives through volunteering. A growing body of research points to the mental and physical health benefits associated with volunteering, including lower mortality rates.

Last year, 337,000 Senior Corps volunteers donated 96.2 million hours helping more than 700,000 low-income seniors remain independent and in their homes. They also helped more than 300,000 young people receive tutoring and mentoring that improved academic performance, self-esteem and overall positive social behavior.

On the home front, the Nevada Rural Counties RSVP Program in Nevada has been helping the rural communities since 1973, nearly four decades of making a difference. Last year, RSVP had 1,315 volunteers who donated 147,377 hours of their time assisting others. The economic benefit of this service to Nevada equaled more than $3.2 million. Nationally it was more than $64 billion! So you have to ask yourself why does the U.S. House keep introducing bills to eliminate such cost effective programs and send a message to millions of volunteers that their work isn’t needed? If the House has some problems with CNCS, then fix them and stop throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

The rural RSVP Program has direct services of Home Companions, Respite Caregivers, pro bono legal services, exercise programs, transportation for seniors’ needs, and Lifeline medical alert phone systems for seniors living alone. In addition, RSVP serves more than 200 non-profit and governmental agencies by providing volunteers to help carry out their missions in helping others. If you hadn’t noticed it yet, the Nevada Appeal runs a column each Sunday titled “Volunteer Connection”, which lists several opportunities at RSVP for volunteering. The Appeal has been doing this free as a community service for almost a year now, and has resulted in more than 500 people volunteering. The column doesn’t have space to list all the volunteer jobs available, so if you don’t see what you like, call Carol Anacker at 687-4680, Ext. 6, and she will find you a niche for sure!

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In the meantime, call our two senators, Dean Heller and Harry Reid, and ask them to vote against the House bill to eliminate CNCS! Stay tuned!

• Janice Ayres is immediate past president of the Nevada Senior Corps Association.