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Stars of the community recognized for service
RSVP members helping needy, mentoring future generations
rsvp banquet pic
The efforts of nearly 500 Barton County volunteers were honored as RSVP held its annual volunteer appreciation banquet Tuesday night at Barton Community College. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Here is a little bit about RSVP:

• Established in 1971, it is now one of the largest senior volunteer organizations in the nation. 

• RSVP engages more than 208,000 people age 55 and older in a diverse range of volunteer activities. 

• Volunteers tutor children, renovate homes, teach English to immigrants, assist victims of natural disasters, provide independent living services, recruit and manage other volunteers, and serve their communities in many other ways. 

• RSVP volunteers choose how, where, and how often they want to serve, with commitments ranging from a few hours to 40 hours per week.

• Volunteers do not receive monetary incentives, but sponsoring organizations may reimburse them for some costs incurred during service, including meals and transportation.

 “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”

RSVP of Central Kansas Director Linn Hogg heard this quote by the late Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore at Senior Companions’ 43rd anniversary in Hays recently. “This so exemplifies the type of volunteers we have in this room,” she said. She was addressing the RSVP members and guests gathered Tuesday night in the Barton Community College Student Union for the organization’s annual RSVP Volunteer Recognition Banquet with the theme “Stars of our Community.”

“You have acted and made service a very important part of your life,” she said. “That is why we consider you the ‘stars’ in the community. Your attitude of service and selflessness is a shining example to those around you.”

Following her remarks, a host of volunteers were honored.

Sister Annette Winter was named Volunteer of the Year. Other nominees for the award were Merita Rice, Ruby Coleman, Dianne Call, Leona Cheney, Merle Evers, Vivian Evers, Clara Barton Auxiliary Volunteers, Matt Hoisington, Robert Ingersoll, Amy Schartz Mellor, Kurtis Coleman, Conrad Koehler, Mike Boys and Marilyn Dougherty.

In addition, membership longevity awards were given to volunteers with AARP tax preparation, SHICK counseling, RSVP Thift Store, Meals on Wheels, medical transportation and those who helped with plastic flower sales.

Shining volunteers

In Barton County there are 487 active volunteers of all ages, Hogg said. These volunteers fit into the RSVP, 55 and older, and Volunteers In Action, under 55, programs.  

“And these volunteers shine in their service as they provide over 35,000 hours of service volunteering,” she said. They help with medical transportation, nutritional meals, free tax preparation, Medicare counseling, grocery shopping, fundraising, museum docents, blood drive support, comfort to the sick, Food Bank support, tutoring, veterans helping veterans, volunteers helping individuals in need and serving at their place of worship.

“And I don’t want to forget our newest venture – disaster relief, specifically learning how to man an evacuation site, volunteer resource center and other necessary jobs,” she said. As many of the county officials are noting, RSVP and Volunteers in Action are very well suited for this important task.

She also gave some national annual RSVP statistical highlights:

• Volunteers – 208,000

• Hours Served – 46,019,150

• Number of Projects – 627 Federally-funded projects

• Children mentored or tutored – 78,000

• Adults receiving independent living services – 797,000

• Veterans serving as RSVP volunteers - 20,100

“These statistics are important because they tell a story to our congressmen,” Hogg said. “This story is that RSVP, Volunteers In Action and National Service is so very important to our nation, state and county.” 

All ages can serve

As for eligibility, RSVP is open to all people age 55 and over. Volunteers do not receive monetary incentives, but sponsoring organizations may reimburse them for some costs incurred during service, including meals and transportation. 

Adding to the RSVP volunteer force is the Volunteers In Action group which is for any person under the age of 55. This group is in part funded by monies received from United Way of Central Kansas and the RSVP Thrift Store in Hoisington.

The Corporation for National and Community Service, United Way of Central Kansas, Barton Community College and Barton County fund or supply matching contributions to the office, she said. “We are also tasked to help agencies manage volunteers so they know what you need to get the job done. Your job, is to share the lifetime of experiences, knowledge and talent to those in need and to mentor those following in your footsteps.” 

Good advice

There was also a presentation on recognizing scams by Rick Schaffer with the Southwest Kansas Area Agency on Aging. He talked about “out foxing the preditors.”

“More and more scams are popping up, “ he said. And scammers are getting smarter.

Senior citizens hold much of the nation’s wealth and have more exposure to “bad people.”

From the internet to the phone to door-to-door sales to investment fraud, he advised people to be vigilant and do there homework.