GALION — “We are the Retired Senior Volunteer Program; that’s what RSVP stands for,” Program Coordinator Erin Miller said. The program serves Crawford, Marion and Morrow Counties.
A division of Family and Community Services, RSVP annually applies for a grant from United Way, and they partner locally with St. Paul’s United Methodist Food Pantry, Community Action, the Bucyrus Backpack Program. They also partner with the Crawford County Council on Aging for Meals on Wheels drivers, and drivers are a continuous need. Drivers are paid supplemental mileage because they drive their own vehicles.
Miller said the Bucyrus Backpack Program every week packs bags of food for children across Crawford County. Children take the bags home from school each week and that food helps provide for those who might otherwise not have enough food over the weekend.
“And it’s seniors packing all those,” added Miller.
“That’s the point of RSVP: Keeping seniors, who are at home, active, and also helping seniors who are homebound maintain their life at home as much as possible. That’s one of our performance measures, helping seniors stay safe in their own homes,” Miller said.
Volunteers deliver Meals on Wheels and and also drive seniors to doctors’ appointments.
“Our volunteers are doing that for other seniors,” she added.
“I think that’s what I like about RSVP. I saw my own dad go through the process of retiring. He was a financial officer for Park National Bank, got up every morning, suit and tie, out the door, 7 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m.—every day. My mom literally had to say, ‘It’s time to retire,’ because she had been at home retired for a while.
“The first year was absolute torture, for all of us. I love my dad dearly but he did not know what to do with himself. He put a building in the backyard and that’s his shop; and he’s out there tinkering and doing, and that’s what’s kept him busy. It was a huge adjustment for him, and until I saw someone go through that, I didn’t realize the impact that retiring can have on those that are 55 and older,” Miller explained.
She said it was a time of adjustment. Once he found a way to channel his time, to find a new rhythm, he was fine.
“That’s the thing with volunteering. If you don’t have something to do, go find something to do,” she added. “And there’s so much to give back. You would be amazed at the stories that come out of Meals on Wheels from drivers because for most of those people, the drivers are the only people they see all day. And the relationships they build are amazing.”
RSVP needs volunteers. Miller said one void the agency has is transportation drivers: people to drive seniors to appointments, maybe the store. The agency pays mileage.
Finding transportation drivers, even for Meals on Wheels, because difficult with COVID-19.
“People didn’t want to be in cars with other people. People didn’t even want to deliver Meals on Wheels because of the contact with other people. COVID has had such a huge impact on everything,” she observed.
It is more challenging today to find senior volunteers because many seniors are still in the workforce. According to Pew Research, more U.S. workers are working after turning 65, both out of financial necessity and to stay busy.
“Our program starts at 55 and older,” Miller said, “Well, there are a lot of 55-year-olds still working. My dad worked until he was 67. Working is just extended into the years it didn’t used to.”
To become a RSVP senior volunteer, call Erin Miller at 567-393-6446 or email her at email@example.com
About RSVP: RSVP began as an outgrowth of AmeriCorps, by private groups and government agencies, to create opportunities for older Americans beginning in 1965. Its success led to the Older Americans Act being amended to create RSVP as a nationwide program in 1969. Family & Community Services, one of the largest nonprofit agencies in Northeast Ohio, has been a sponsor and advocate for all Senior Corps programs, including RSVP, for well over 20 years.