Senior citizens are important to any community, but for one local organization they play a vital role.
The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program is a nationwide program that is part of the National Senior Service Corps. It pairs volunteers ages 55 and older with nonprofit, government, faith-based or health care organizations in need of help.
RSVP is funded by the Corporation for National & Community Service and administered locally by the Senior Citizens Council of Greater Augusta.
Marilyn Grau, the Senior Corps project director of the Senior Citizens Council of Greater Augusta, said there are about 150 RSVP volunteers in the area. They are part of the more than 500,000 RSVP volunteers around the country.
“RSVP volunteers are currently performing simple energy audits in Columbia County homes, distributing brochures
and making simple money-saving suggestions to save on utility bills this winter,” Grau said. “If homeowners want to provide simple supplies – weather stripping, door sweeps, caulking, plastic for windows – our volunteers will install them free of charge.
“Unlike the (CSRA Economic Opportunity Authority) weatherization program, eligibility is not based on income. It’s just that some people, particularly senior citizens, can’t do the work themselves, and don’t know who they can trust to not take advantage of them.
“RSVP solves both of those problems. And the trainer for our volunteers is a professional who does weatherization projects for EOA.”
Volunteers do all sorts of work, depending on their interests and skills, said Grau, who also is an RSVP volunteer.
“Most of my volunteer work is in the parks because that’s what I love,” said Grau, who plans and leads programs at Mistletoe State Park and edits the park newsletter. “Other RSVP volunteers may program computers, prepare blood bags for the blood center, advise new business owners, go to the scenes of house fires as Red Cross workers, usher at concerts or drain ponds and sort fish.”
The local RSVP enables people 55 and older to apply their experience as a resource for meeting critical community needs.
“Teachers are in short supply,” Grau said. “Medical personnel are in short supply. Nonprofits don’t have the funding they need to hire folks to do what needs to be done. Federal and state agencies are furloughing staff. So it’s RSVP to the rescue.”
The Senior Corps staff has placed volunteers in more than 70 agencies, schools and hospitals in Richmond, Columbia, Burke, Jefferson, Jenkins, McDuffie, Lincoln, Emanuel and Taliaferro counties, Grau said.
Available volunteer opportunities include those at the local state parks, Mercy Ministries, Augusta Opera, Imperial Theatre, Augusta Museum of History, CSRA Humane Society, Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau, Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, American Red Cross and Shepeard Community Blood Center.
RSVP also is helping veterans and their spouses older than 65 apply for a little-known VA Improved Pension.
Veterans must have served in the military during World War II, Korea, Vietnam or the Gulf War, and must qualify based on income.
“Our trained RSVP volunteers will help them complete the lengthy application free of charge,” Grau said.
To learn more about RSVP, how to get involved or any of the services it offers, call the Senior Citizens Council at (706) 868-0120.