Barton County has a valuable asset that may not be immediately apparent. I’m referring, of course, to the 415 dedicated volunteers with the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. RSVP has served Barton County since 1977, almost 35 years. In 2010 alone, 401 volunteers donated 59,000 hours of service to the residents of Barton County. Using the minimum wage of $7.25, those hours translate into almost $4.3 million contributed to non-profits, community agencies and programs, schools, and health care providers.
As you can imagine, 415 volunteers have many different skills, talents, and interests. RSVP volunteers work with young people in pre-school or after-school programs and in the E.A.R.S program in elementary schools, listening to children read. Others prefer to work in nutrition settings, such as the food banks or the senior centers serving Friendship Meals, or delivering Meals on Wheels to the homebound. Volunteers that like to work with older people donate time in hospitals, nursing facilities, and assisted living facilities helping to improve the quality of life for residents. Numerous community organizations benefit from the contributions of RSVP volunteers, such as historical societies/commissions, the beautification committee, Salvation Army, American Red Cross; the list goes on and on. Volunteers donate hours of time and talents to make knitted or crocheted lap robes for residents of nursing facilities and assisted living facilities and new-born baby caps for every baby born in Barton County. A telephone reassurance program called T(alk) L(isten) C(are) in which volunteers speak daily with a homebound or isolated person is also in development.
Supported by funding from Barton County and from Great Bend Commission on Aging, the Medical Transportation program provides free transportation to medical appointments for any resident of Barton County. A van with a wheelchair lift is also available for any person that needs a wheelchair for mobility. Long distance appointments can also be accommodated as long as there is a volunteer willing and able to make the trip.
Funding for the RSVP program is provided by the Corporation for National and Community Service but local support is required to access the federal dollars. Local support is provided by the United Way of Central Kansas, the United Way of Hoisington, the Golden Belt Community Foundation’s John A. & Doris F. Graham Memorial Fund and Kansas Health Foundation Youth Endowment Fund and the RSVP Thrift Shop in Hoisington as well as generous in-kind support from Barton Community College, sponsor of RSVP.
RSVP’s funding from the CNCS is in danger of being cut completely from the federal budget. All Americans are aware of the serious problems with the federal budget so I won’t belabor the point. However, I think we can all agree that politics appears to rule budget discussions and plans instead of good common sense. Volunteer programs like RSVP are a proverbial drop in the bucket that we call the federal budget; yet, these programs are nearly always targeted first for cuts. Of course, no one wants a tax increase but there is significant waste and over-spending in other areas of the federal budget that should be considered before deep cuts are made to social programs that do so much for so many.
If you appreciate what RSVP has done for Barton County for the past 35 years, contact our representatives in Washington and tell them. You can find the contact information here in today’s paper. With your assistance, RSVP will hopefully continue to fill unmet needs in the communities where we all live and work for the next 35 years.
RSVP director, Donna Baugh, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 620-791-1614. RSVP is sponsored by Barton Community College - www.bartonccc.edu.