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Seniors Serve Community

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The common abbreviation “RSVP” refers to the phrase, “Répondez s’il vous plaît,” if you’ll pardon my French.  It means, literally, Please Respond, as to an invitation.  Naturally, very few do, until they know if they have better options for the day in question.

But some senior citizens have been responding without needing to be asked twice.  This RSVP stands for Retired & Seniors Volunteer Program.  According to Diana Corona, who serves as Executive Director for the Denton County branches, the offices in Denton and Lewisville oversee some 1,100 volunteers out of a national total of about 450,000.

“RSVP is partially funded through the National and Community Service program, (www.nationalservice.gov) and is also a part of the National Senior Service Corps (www.seniorcorps.gov), and partners with United Way,” Corona explains.  “We’ve been around since 1971, assisting older adults to find ways to contribute and help solve community needs. We’re also able to protect our volunteers with supplemental accident and liability coverage.”

If you’re at least 55 and would like to give a little back to your community without having to break out the checkbook, RSVP might be the perfect medium for you.  Many of the volunteers are retired and looking for something to do, but that’s certainly not necessary, as a person can donate as little as just one hour per month.  You earn “double rewards,” emotionally speaking, as you’ll be helping others, while feeling good about what you’re doing, yourself.

And the causes are good, as Corona points out, “We only donate time to official non-profits, including the Lewisville Independent School District and the Denton Independent School District.”  Whereas one might think it’s only women who pitch in, that’s not the case.  “It’s about 75% women to 25% men.”

Hanci Tollefson, a retired secretary for Denton County, serves as a leader amongst the RSVPs who help out at Lake Forest Good Samaritan Village in Denton.  “Some people volunteer at the front desk, some fold circulars, some knit baby caps and blankets for children in the hospital.  Some of the men might provide transportation for those in need, fix things, or teach reading in the schools.  It is hard to recruit volunteers.  But, if I didn’t do this, I don’t know what I’d do with all of my time.”

RSVP volunteer Peggy Broemsen has been giving of her time for eight years.  Her mother and father-in-law, both now deceased, lived at Lake Forest Good Samaritan.  “I do a little bit of everything, from making the coffee to getting out the sewing machine.  I don’t crochet or knit, but I can do everything else.

“We make bibs for the state school, wraps for people’s legs, fall wreaths for Lake Forest, and help put up and take down the Christmas decorations.  I’m 58, so I can still do a lot for the truly elderly.  We help out with youngsters, too.  At my grandson’s 3rd grade Thanksgiving feast, we prepared a 24 pound turkey.”

Broemsen credits her supervisor, Hanci Tollefson, “Hanci comes up with ideas, saying, Let’s do this or let’s do that!  At a Christmas bazaar at Lake Forest, we’ve raised money to buy equipment, the sewing machine, even a wheelchair accessible SUV!  At a bake sale, we sold a cookbook and brought in about $1,700 total.” 

Talk about rolling in dough.  Broemsen muses about an “ugly duckling” type of experience, “We had gone through closets of women who had passed on, and found some scraps of material, and decided to make a quilt.  At first, it didn’t look too appealing with all of these odds and ends being sewn together.  But in the end, it looked beautiful and Lake Forest was able to raffle it off for $150.  It’s just a good feeling to know that you’re helping your fellow man.”

Michelle Shaffer, Marketing Coordinator for Lake Forest laughs, “Even someone like me, who can’t sew can participate.” Shaffer adds, “Evangelism talks about sharing God’s love in word and deed…and these ladies are certainly handling the deed part.”

But guys, don’t forget, you make up approximately one-forth of the volunteer staff.  Executive Director Corona expounds that it’s not just arts and crafts projects that get handled.  “We do a lot with reading programs in the schools, rebuilding computers, working as museum guides.  We might have a retired CEO helping guide a non-profit organization to reach new heights.”

If you’re not surrounded by relatives in your own life, your investment of a few hours per month to help others might bring you more personal joy than you imagined, as Broemsen asides, “I really like the people.  They’re very sweet.  They’re like family.”

RSVP is always looking for more volunteers.  You can call the local office at 940-383-1508 or log onto www.rsvpserves.org.

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