ANDERSON — Retirement produces the resource of time. With fewer hours of the day (or possibly none) devoted to a job or career, seniors, still possessing all the skills they have developed through education, working and life experience, are prime candidates for volunteerism.
Tapping into this population, RSVP (a 55+ volunteer program) allows the United Way of Madison County to match experienced men and women with jobs in the community that need to be accomplished.
“I have a conversation with new volunteers and find out their goals, their likes and what they are passionate about,” said Georgeann Whitworth, RSVP director. “There are so many opportunities that I wasn’t even aware of until I started working here. All of the volunteers are important and it makes them feel so good to help others.”
Varied programs include Operation Weatherization, Habitat for Humanity, financial literacy, disaster service, Born Learning, White River cleanup, companions of caretakers, Read-n-Feed Community Garden, and nutrition program advocacy. Whether individuals have an interest in children, the elderly, animals, construction, gardening or the environment, a place is waiting for them to make a difference in people’s lives.
“Retired people who volunteer live longer than those that stay at home and do nothing,” said Whitworth. “I’ve gone to many different club meetings, like the morning Rotary Club, to let them know about all the different opportunities that are available. A lot of clubs aren’t aware of the many things they can do through volunteering with RSVP.”
“It makes me feel good to do something to help someone else,” said Patty Hamilton, an RSVP volunteer for 10 years. “When my mother was elderly, people did things to help her so when I was approached I thought it was a good way to pay them back for what they did for her.”
Volunteering with the early education program during the Blast off to Kindergarten events is one of her favorite avenues of assistance.
“I do like to see the children come in and get excited about coming to school,” said Hamilton, retired from Anaconda Wire and Cable. “I hope I can keep on volunteering for a good long time yet.”
“We want to tap into the talent of those of retirement age and make sure they don’t lose their connection to the community,” said Kim Rogers-Hatfield, vice president of operations at United Way. “They are a great age group to work with and we have a structured program for them to connect to.”
She also mentioned that being 55 years old doesn’t always mean an individual is retired and those in that age group don’t particularly want to be called seniors. Nevertheless, members of the 55+ age category typically have fewer demands on their time, as their children have been raised.
“This federal program has been going for over 30 years and the funding is tied to the SeniorCorps program,” said Rogers-Hatfield. “But this is a good partnership for us because the corporation has six focus areas that directly correlate to the United Way’s focus. We are benefited and the whole community has benefited.”