By ROB W. ANDERSON
Volunteering helps promote and improve human quality of life, and for many, it instills a feeling of self-worth and respect.
Volunteers of America is a national non-profit organization that provides a ministry of services dedicated to helping people in need rebuild their lives and reach their full potential.
One VOA program that helps accomplish this goal is the Retired Seniors Volunteer Program, or RSVP, made possible through a federally-funded program known as Senior Corps.
On April 9, the Corporation for National and Community Service, which funds Senior Corps, will hold its first Mayors Day of Recognition to honor people in local communities who donate their time to supporting local agencies and organizations that help people in need.
Muskogee VOA RSVP Volunteer Coordinator Andreka Pace said Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols is expected to join her to honor the local RSVP participants for their commitment to the mission of ensuring people’s basic needs are met. The proclamation ceremony will take place at Nichols’ office.
“We have invited all the mayors in the counties in which we serve to come be a part of this great event,” said Pace. “We have a total of eight stations in the [Tahlequah] area.”
Participating entities include Help-In-Crisis, Tahlequah City Hospital, NSU-Sequoyah Institute, CARE Food Pantry, Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cherokee Country, Tahlequah Senior Citizens Center, and the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Last year, our volunteers completed 8, 558 hours at those stations, with community service [valued at] $186, 478.82, if you put a dollar amount on their service,” said Pace.
The RSVP program is for individuals 55 or older who have their passions, skills and time availability matched with local volunteer jobs. An RSVP volunteer may help mentor a struggling child, be a friend to a lonely elder, advocate for victims of violence, or work in a hospital gift shop.
Pace said Cherokee County currently has 122 people who volunteer, but noted the Tahlequah RSVP program needs as many volunteers as can be recruited. More help is needed at Hope House of Cherokee County, as well as the NSU Sequoyah Institute.
“NSU is one of our partner stations,” Pace said. “Our volunteers help take tickets. They’re the greeters and ushers. We’re also at Tahlequah City Hospital. [Our volunteers] are the candy stripers, and run the gift shop.”
Tahlequah resident Sara Brown has been a community volunteer since she and her husband, Dudley, arrived in town 32 years ago. She said the retired couple became a part of the VOA RSVP program through their efforts at the CARE Food Pantry.
“One of the reasons it was very attractive to me is that with our limited funds at the Food Pantry, we don’t spend a lot of money on nurturing our volunteers, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. RSVP gave a way for our volunteers to be nurtured,” she said. “They have parties. They have workshops. They have recognitions. All of these things are very valuable to volunteers.”
Living out the golden years shouldn’t mean staying at home and staring at the walls, said Dudley.
“We’re seniors who feel we still have something we can give to the community,” he said. “That’s the way both of us were brought up.”
Pace said people interested in joining the RSVP can contact any of the volunteer entities listed or call at (918) 683-1578.